NPT PrepCom 2019: Live CNS Updates

April 29, 2019 • Updated May 9, 2019

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United Nations General Assembly hall in New York City. (Src: Patrick Gruban, Wikimedia Commons)

United Nations General Assembly hall in New York City. (Src: Patrick Gruban, Wikimedia Commons)

The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) was signed in 1968 and entered into force in 1970. It is widely considered to be the cornerstone of the nonproliferation and arms control regime, and is heralded as one of the finest examples to date of multilateralism. The Treaty was indefinitely extended in 1995 as part of a wider package of decisions and resolutions, and is reviewed in a formal conference by States Parties every five years. In each of the three years leading up to the year of the Review Conference, Preparatory Committees with States Parties to the Treaty are held in Vienna, Geneva, and New York, and these are widely attended by NGOs, educators, and others in the disarmament and nonproliferation community. This year is the third and final Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) for the 2020 Review Conference (RevCon), which will mark the 50th anniversary of the entry into force of the NPT.

Each year in which there is a PrepCom or RevCon, a group of students, young professionals, and CNS staff attend the conference as part of the CNS delegation under the mentorship of CNS founder and director Dr. William (Bill) Potter. This year, to support its mission of providing disarmament and nonproliferation education, CNS has decided to publish a daily brief designed to update those interested in the NPT and provide insights into the daily work of the Preparatory Committee.

Daily Event Summaries

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Opening Remarks

The 2019 Preparatory Committee for the 2020 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference began on 29 April 2019, with opening remarks by UN Office for Disarmament Affairs High Representative and Under Secretary-General (USG) Izumi Nakamitsu and the Chair of the 2019 PrepCom, Ambassador Syed Md Hasrin Syed Hussin of Malaysia. USG Nakamitsu noted the historic nature of this PrepCom, given the upcoming 50th anniversary of the entry into force of the NPT, and the 25th anniversary of its indefinite extension next year, when the 2020 Review Conference will take place. Nakamitsu emphasized that accomplishing the procedural tasks typically expected of a third PrepCom is the best preparation for the Review Conference. Chair Hussin also highlighted the necessity of prioritizing the accomplishment of these procedural tasks. He stated that he is still undertaking consultations on the endorsement of a candidate for the presidency of the 2020 Review Conference, but that he will return to this topic later in the PrepCom. Both the Chair and the High Representative implored the delegates to treat the discussions with sensitivity, respect, and flexibility; the High Representative admonished that States Parties would not find points of commonality if they were rigid in their discussions, and that the trust deficit in the international environment could undermine confidence in these negotiations if States Parties fail to remember the shared security achieved by the NPT, which benefits all.

After undertaking procedural matters such as the adoption of the agenda, Chair Hussin opened the General Debate, which, as of this writing, had 109 speakers on the speaker’s list when it was closed at noon. The Cluster 1 speaker’s list will open tomorrow, 30 April 2019, at 3 pm. In keeping with last year, the Chair also announced that the specific issues portion of each cluster will not have a formal speaker’s list, so as to foster dialogue.

Day 1 of the 2019 NPT PrepCom

Day 1 of the 2019 NPT PrepCom

General Debate

The approximately 30 speakers that participated in the general debate today included four of the five Nuclear Weapons States – the United States, China, the Russian Federation, and France – and a number of regional groupings and political coalitions, including: the Arab Group, the African Group, the European Union, the Nordic Countries, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Vienna Group of 10, the New Agenda Coalition (NAC), the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), OPANAL, and the States party to the Central Asian Nuclear Weapons Free Zone (CANWFZ). There were several themes which emerged from the first day of the general debate, and these may provide a glimpse into how discussions will proceed for the next two weeks.

Perhaps the most obvious undercurrent of many statements was the need to resolve the procedural matters that are (and have historically been) the purview of the third PrepCom in the NPT review cycle: namely, to nominate and confirm a President for the 2020 Review Conference, to allocate different substantive issues to the subcommittees of the Review Conference, and to adopt an agenda for the RevCon. The Chair identified the need to undertake all of these matters in his opening remarks, but most of the delegations have focused primarily on the necessity of confirming the President of the Review Conference, so that he or she may begin the extensive work required to comprehensively prepare for it. There is a proposed president for the Review Conference – Argentinian Ambassador Rafael Grossi – but his confirmation has thus far been blocked by a few States Parties.

Unsurprisingly, many delegations also emphasized the deteriorating international security environment and the degradation of trust and confidence between States Parties, and cited this environment as a challenge to multilateralism writ large, and to negotiations in the NPT context. The abrogation of the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) between the United States and the Russian Federation was cited as one clear sign of this degradation, as was the failure thus far to extend New START. Many delegations called for the extension of New START, the preservation of the INF, and the intentional effort to promote confidence building measures (CBMs), especially between the Nuclear Weapons States. While none besides the Chair and the ODA High Representative called explicitly for civility and respect in dialogue, delegations frequently called on all present to engage in good faith negotiations.

As aforementioned, delegations frequently referenced other arms control agreements in their general debate remarks, and many delegations (not usually including the NWS) linked their continuation with the strengthening of multilateralism, nonproliferation and arms control, and the NPT regime itself. In addition to the INF and New START, delegations referenced the CTBT (and the necessity of its prompt entry into force), the theoretical FMCT (and the need to commence substantive negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament at the earliest possible date), the various NWFZs in existence (and the need to create a MEWMDFZ), the previously existing ABM Treaty (and the need to prevent the INF from going the same way), the JCPOA (and the need to preserve it in light of the regrettable withdrawal of the US) and the ever-controversial TPNW. The African Group called for all delegations to sign and ratify the TPNW at the earliest possible date, the NWS who spoke ignored the TPNW in its entirety, and Austria noted that the text of the NPT was short and designed to be supported by additional legal instruments, and the TPNW was the first legal instrument to support the disarmament pillar.

The United States and the Russian Federation were the subjects of the majority of criticism, both explicit and implied, leveled by delegations in their general debate remarks. The remarks were largely civil in tone, and focused primarily on the abrogation of the INF and the failure to extend New START. The United States was also critiqued for its withdrawal from the JCPOA, and the Russian Federation was critiqued for its noncompliance with the INF. Some delegations also admonished the two States Parties for the size of their arsenals, stating that those with the largest arsenals bear a special (and primary) responsibility to make progress on disarmament.

While a host of other issues were brought up throughout the day, the themes above were particularly prominent in the greatest number of remarks made by delegations. Up until the Right of Reply at the end of the day, which was exercised by the United States (twice), the NATO countries, the Russian Federation, and the Islamic Republic of Iran (twice), the tone of the general debate remarks was largely respectful and lacked some of the incendiary language that was present in 2018. The Right of Replies at the end of the session, however, were so emotional and incendiary in nature that one is left to wonder whether the overall tone of the rest of the general debate will sour, and be remembered as similarly divisive to 2018.

I’ll be back tomorrow with an update on Day 2 of the General Debate, and later this week, will reflect further on the Right of Reply and its effect on the overall tone of the PrepCom. Stay tuned!

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General Debate

The second and third days of the PrepCom continued with General Debate statements by States Parties. On the second day, the Chair stated that there were still 76 speakers left in the general debate, with 27 scheduled for the morning, and on the third morning, there was a segment of statements made by non-governmental organizations. The general debate concluded thirty minutes before the end of the afternoon session on the third day. The Chair began substantive discussions on Cluster 1 in that time.

The United Kingdom – the last of the Nuclear Weapons States to deliver general debate remarks – was the first speaker on the second day. The UK reaffirmed several positions shared by the US and other NATO countries – namely, the necessity of further dialogue with the DPRK and its complete, verifiable, and irreversible disarmament (CVID); the concern over the Iranian ballistic missile program (though they reiterated their support with for the JCPOA, which is not the US position); and the call for Russia to cease its material breaches of the INF and return to compliance. The UK also supported a high-level segment at the 2020 RevCon, and explicitly stated its goal of an agreed, consensus-based outcome for the upcoming RevCon. Finally, the UK reiterated the necessity of agreeing on a President and an agenda for the 2020 RevCon on the earliest possible date at this PrepCom.

The aforementioned procedural matters continued to be a theme on the second and third days of the PrepCom, as did the themes mentioned by the UK and in the first daily PrepCom brief. However, because a large number of NAM states spoke on the second and third days of the PrepCom, additional themes emerged that, while highlighted by the delegate of Venezuela on behalf of NAM on the first day, were not spoken to as frequently until the second and third days.

One of the primary themes highlighted by States Parties who aligned themselves with the NAM statement was the concern over the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons. Many states expressed concern over the effects of nuclear detonations on both the environment and on people worldwide, including those far from the area of detonation. Some states also highlighted the gendered impact of nuclear detonations as well, noting the differing effects of ionizing radiation on women and girls.

Relatedly, many states characterized the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons as a violation of the UN Charter, a violation of international humanitarian law, and a crime against humanity. Many states used these reasons, as well as the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear detonations, to express their support for the TPNW, and call for all states to consider signing and ratifying the Treaty. While some states simply expressed their support for the TPNW and noted that it did not undermine the NPT, others were explicit in stating that the TPNW supported the NPT, closed a legal loophole, and was a legal and logical measure of advancing disarmament.

Another theme emerging from the second and third days of debate was the concern over the behavior writ large of Nuclear Weapons States. Many states expressed concern over the burgeoning arms race, and referenced the failure of the INF and the New START extension as proof of this. The modernization programs of NWS were offered as additional proof of this arms race, and most states part of NAM expressed concern about the continued (if not increased) role of nuclear weapons in the security doctrines of NWS, as well as the development of new tactical weapons that seem designed to lower the threshold for use. Additionally, many NNWS called for legally binding negative security assurances against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons.

While many of the most prominent themes of the conference have been elucidated above, numerous States Parties made specific comments worth mentioning here. While not exhaustive, here are a few highlights from the second and third days of General Debate:

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) stated that the upcoming, 10th Review Conference takes place in the shadow of the previous nine, where most NNWS were dissatisfied with progress on Article VI commitments.

Iceland stated that the NWS have a special responsibility for disarmament, but called on NNWS to still support measures such as the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and other export control regimes.

The delegate from Argentina, Ambassador Rafael Mariano Grossi, spoke at length about the necessity of nominating and confirming the President of the 2020 Review Conference. Ambassador Grossi emphasized that the nominee has been endorsed by GRULAC over two years ago, and that it was difficult to understand why there was continued delay. Ambassador Grossi stated that his urgency was not out of selfish interest or national interest, but rather because all would lose out if this procedural matter was not addressed. Ambassador Grossi is the nominee endorsed by GRULAC.

The delegation of Poland paid tribute to the recently deceased United States Senator of Indiana Richard Lugar, and thanked him for his invaluable contributions to arms control.

Brunei Darussalam stated that the failure of the 2015 RevCon to reach consensus is not a failure of the review process nor the NPT itself.

Singapore raised concerns about the use of “dual use items for unsanctioned military purposes.”

Brazil stated that the TPNW has significantly raised moral barrier to the acquisition of these weapons, thus diminishing their value in a political and strategic context, but also emphasized that states that dislike the TPNW should be reminded that the TPNW will not and should not block them from their own efforts on disarmament.

Hungary posited that while the JCPOA may not be perfect, it is the best case scenario in terms of providing assurances of peaceful uses of Iran’s nuclear program.

Ukraine expressed the importance of the Budapest Memorandum and its linkage to the NPT, condemned the Russian Federation for its military aggression against Ukraine (which it characterized as in violation of the NPT), and affirmed that the INF crisis was caused by the Russian Federation’s noncompliance with and material breach of the Treaty, and thus consider the US decision to withdraw from the Treaty as justified.

Nepal expressed that development and disarmament are interconnected and interdependent, and highlighted the connection between disarmament and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Germany noted that progress on disarmament is at a standstill, and that a standstill is not sustainable for a Treaty of multiple commitments.

Jamaica affirmed the importance of a gender sensitive approach to disarmament, and clearly stated the gendered impact of ionizing radiation, which disproportionately affect women and girls.

Ireland announced its intention to ratify the TPNW imminently.

Viet Nam stated that it will attend the November 2019 conference on the establishment of a WMDFZME, in accordance with UN General Assembly Resolution 73/

Saudi Arabia applauded the UN Secretary-General for creating the conference on the establishment of the WMDFZME, to be held in November 2019.  Saudi Arabia also expressed concern over the absence of national safety and security parameters at Bushehr plant in Iran, given its proximity to the Gulf, and called for the Islamic Republic of Iran to sign the Convention on Nuclear Safety.

The Syrian Arab Republic stated that the United States was in violation of Article I of the NPT.

Chile expressed that the 2020 RevCon will have the opportunity to reshape the NPT, since this is first Review Conference since the adoption of the SDGs. Chile thanked civil society for its invaluable contributions.

Kyrgyzstan asked for all governments and international organizations that have experts in the field of radioactive cleanup to provide assistance to affected areas in Central Asia. The delegation also called for the implementation of the recommendations made by the 2002 UN study on disarmament and nonproliferation education.

Lithuania advocated for an inclusive and gradual approach to disarmament, including creating an environment conducive to disarmament. The delegation also expressed that the NATO nuclear arrangements are fully consistent with the NPT, and that the Russian Federation is in material breach of the INF.

Honduras expressed that GRULAC had endorsed Ambassador Grossi of Argentina for the presidency of the 2020 RevCon two years ago, and urged his confirmation without further delay.

Morocco expressed concern that States Parties were not accomplishing what is required of them at the PrepComs and RevCons, and that this is undermining trust and weakening the DNP regime.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) expressed that it, in combination with other likeminded organizations, would be incapable of providing the necessary response to survivors/victims should a nuclear detonation occur. The ICRC also reflected concern over the modernization of nuclear command and control systems, making them more vulnerable to cyberattack. Protection of these systems was cited as one method of reducing nuclear risk.

That’s all for Days 2 and 3! Stay tuned for updates from Cluster 1, a summary of and reflection on the Rights of Reply and how much influence they really have over the tone of this PrepCom, and an analysis of the evolution of dialogue over the course of the 2017, 2018, and 2019 PrepComs.

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CNS PREPCOM BRIEF: DAYS 4 & 5 (Cluster 1)

The Cluster 1 general statements and discussion of specific issues began late in Day 3, and lasted until midmorning on Day 5. During the general debate segment of Cluster 1 that was governed by a speaker’s list, 56 delegates delivered statements on behalf of States Parties and regional/political coalitions. There were only five additional speakers during the specific issues segment, which was not governed by a predetermined speakers list in keeping with past PrepComs in this cycle, and as announced by the Chair at the beginning of this year’s deliberations.

Many delegations delivered statements in Cluster 1 that were very similar to those delivered in the General Debate segment at the beginning of the week. This is logical, given that many States Parties to the NPT are focused on the balanced implementation of all three pillars, but see the disarmament pillar as the one needing the most focus, given their perception of its lack of implementation.

Within the Cluster 1 statements, several themes related to disarmament emerged. Predictably, the prominent subjects of discussion could largely be split into two categories: those linked to nuclear weapons possessing states under the NPT and their allies, and those linked to non-nuclear weapons states.

The United States spoke about its CEND initiative – Creating the Environment for Nuclear Disarmament – and the Creating the Environment Working Group (CEWG) that it plans to convene for the first time this summer. Some US allies and NATO partners expressed explicit support for the CEND initiative during their prepared statements, and looked forward to participating in the upcoming CEWG. The United States referred all delegations to their Working Paper submitted on this topic, and provided additional remarks on their vision for the initiative at a side event hosted during the lunch hour.[1]

The delegation of Sweden introduced its own approach to disarmament, both in their Cluster 1 statement and in their Working Paper, which they called the “stepping stone” approach. This also garnered some support and affirmation from delegations present in the room, given its recognition of the current challenging international security environment, but also its core objective of “facilitat[ing] the implementation of previous agreements on the Non-Proliferation Treaty,” which nearly all States Parties have expressed is of critical importance to maintaining the credibility of the Treaty. Sweden noted that the “stepping stones” in its approach were designed to be short term, achievable, tangible advancements in their own right, but also are designed to serve as TCBMs.

While the aforementioned approaches were introduced as new and innovative ways to work toward disarmament in the NPT context, the majority of States Parties present at the PrepCom expressed their disappointment with progress on Article VI commitments by the NWS. Many States Parties expressed their conviction that the modernization programs taking place in NWS are incompatible with Article VI commitments under the NPT, and reflective of the continuing prominence of nuclear weapons in the security doctrines of NWS. Some NNWS and coalitions such as NAC and NPDI also called for additional transparency in reporting by the NWS, with concrete benchmarks and timelines for progress on disarmament. Many delegations present reaffirmed the idea that 1995 RevCon consensus outcome that led to the indefinite extension of the Treaty does not mean that NWS have the right to the indefinite retention of nuclear weapons, and they cited the lack of progress on disarmament as the main factor undermining the credibility of the NPT and its “grand bargain” between the NWS and the NNWS. Some delegations and coalitions (such as the De-Alerting Group, among others) also affirmed their support for reducing the operational readiness and alert status of nuclear weapons in the arsenals of NWS.

Numerous other treaties focused on arms control and disarmament were mentioned during Cluster 1. There was a near unanimous expression of concern over the predicament of the INF Treaty, and almost all delegations called for the United States and the Russian Federation to remain in and abide by the INF. Most of those States called for Russia to return to compliance with the INF. Most States also expressed grave concern over the failure, thus far, to extend New START, and called on the US and Russia to do so without further delay. Most States also noted that treaties such as the INF, New START, and the JCPOA underpin and support the existing disarmament, nonproliferation, and arms control regime, and that their failure, or a withdrawal from them, undermines the stability and credibility of the entire structure. Many delegations also stated the necessity of the prompt entry into force of the CTBT, and called on the eight remaining Annex 2 states who have not yet done so to sign and ratify the Treaty. Many delegations also called for the prompt start of negotiations on the proposed FMCT in the Conference on Disarmament (CD) and some delegations also affirmed the importance of continuing the moratoria on the production of fissile material.

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, or TPNW, also featured prominently into statements made by both NWS and NNWS. Though the NWS avoided mention of this treaty in their general debate opening statements, France, the UK, and China mentioned it during Cluster 1. They, along with some NATO states, indicated that they would not support the Treaty because it undermines the good faith efforts to work on disarmament in the NPT context, and attempts to be a “shortcut” to disarmament which does not take into account the security environment and security concerns of all states, and in this way, could actually be destabilizing. By contrast, NNWS largely reaffirmed their support for the TPNW. Ireland and Tanzania announced their intentions to ratify the TPNW at an imminent date. Many States explicitly stated that the TPNW is a legally binding mechanism that supports the disarmament pillar (Article VI) of the NPT, and that progress on the entry into force of the TPNW will serve as a bulwark for the NPT.

The Cluster 1 discussions this year largely mirrored those of past years in this review cycle. Though there was some interest in the approaches put forward by the US and Sweden, other states seemed to consider these approaches as setting preconditions for the prompt fulfillment of Article VI, and rejected the notion that the security environment needs to be taken into account by disarmament initiatives. While the tone in the discussion was often pleasant (Right of Replies not included), States Parties seemed to make little progress on any sort of compromise, and largely reaffirmed their traditional and longstanding positions. It remains to be seen if bridge building will be more successful in any of the other clusters.

Back soon with more updates!

[1] The thrust of ideas behind CEND may sound familiar to those who followed the 2018 NPT PrepCom, when the US introduced a Working Paper on CCND, or Creating the Conditions for Nuclear Disarmament. During the side event, a clarifying questions about the difference between CCND and CEND was asked. The answer largely boiled down to a difference in branding – the US delegation indicated that the word “condition” included in the 2018 initiative erroneously caused some States Parties to think that the US was imposing preconditions on their disarmament obligations. The US delegation clarified that this was not the case, and that their goal with the initiative was to simply ensure that the international security environment and the security concerns of all States Parties are considered while taking gradual steps toward the goal of disarmament.

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CNS PREPCOM BRIEF: DAYS 5 & 6 (Cluster 2)

The Cluster 2 general statements and discussion of specific issues began midmorning on Day 5, and lasted until midafternoon on Day 6. During the general debate segment of Cluster 2 that was governed by a speaker’s list, 48 delegates delivered statements on behalf of States Parties and regional/political coalitions. Nearly 20 delegations spoke during the specific issues segment on the Middle East, and an additional four delegations spoke during the specific issues segment on other regional issues. Neither of the specific issues segments of Cluster 2 were governed by a predetermined speakers list in keeping with the practice in Cluster 1 and past PrepComs in this cycle, and as announced by the Chair at the beginning of this year’s deliberations.

As in 2017 and 2018, most statements delivered by delegations on behalf of States Parties or regional/political coalitions, both during the general debate and specific issues segments of Cluster 2, contained some language on the Middle East and specifically the establishment of a zone free of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems in the region (WMDFZME). Other topics that emerged as prominent topics of discussion included the Korean Peninsula and Iran; the importance of verification activities, the IAEA safeguards system, and multilateral export control regimes; and the role of nuclear weapons free zones in the world.

The IAEA safeguards system was widely lauded as enabling states to be confident in the nonproliferation commitments undertaken by States Parties to the NPT, and nearly all states reaffirmed the necessity of the objective, transparent, and non-discriminatory nature of the safeguards system and the work of the IAEA. Many states indicated that IAEA safeguards measures should continue to be strengthened and technologically modernized. Most States Parties reaffirmed that all States Parties to the Treaty should conclude and maintain a Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement (CSA) with the IAEA, and expressed the importance of such agreements to the nonproliferation regime. Some States Parties expressed that the model Additional Protocol in addition to a CSA constitutes the new universal standard for safeguards, while some other States Parties noted that the AP is a strictly voluntary commitment to be undertaken by States in accordance with their wishes, and that it is not mandated under the NPT. The importance of technical verification in assuring both nonproliferation and disarmament was emphasized by most delegations who took the floor, as was the role that verification technologies can play as transparency and confidence building measures (TCBM).

Many States Parties expressed the importance of formal and informal multilateral export control regimes, such as the Zangger Committee and the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), in preventing proliferation. Some states called for the adherence of NPT States Parties to the criteria of these export control regimes, given their view that such regimes are complementary to the NPT and the nonproliferation regime.

Nearly all States Parties affirmed the importance of the existing nuclear weapons free zones (NWFZs) around the world. Many states also expressed support for the establishment of additional zones, based on agreements freely arrived at by the states of the region in question. Many states called for the ratification of the protocols to the existing NWFZs – including the Southeast Asian NWFZ (Treaty of Bangkok), the African NWFZ (Treaty of Pelindaba), and the Central Asian NWFZ (controversially sometimes referred to as the Treaty of Semipalatinsk) – by all relevant states. Many states also expressed support for the creation of a WMDFZ in the Middle East, though States Parties differed on the timeline for the creation of this hypothetical treaty.

Most States Parties reaffirmed their support for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreed to between the P5+1/EU3+3 and Iran in 2015, and called on all relevant parties to abide by and remain in the agreement. Most states reaffirmed the continued validity of UNSCR2231 and the mandate given to the IAEA to monitor and verify the continued Iranian fulfillment of its commitments, including related to the peaceful use of nuclear energy, under the JCPOA. Many states expressed their disappointment in the US decision to withdraw from the agreement, and some states called on the US to return to its commitments under the JCPOA. A few states called for the cessation of unilateral sanctions on Iran imposed by the US.

Most States Parties expressed that the proliferation activities undertaken Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) pose one of the foremost threats to the nonproliferation regime today. Many states expressed their hope that constructive dialogue would continue to take place between the DPRK, the US, and others. Some states called for the continuation of a gradual reduction in tensions through the use of concrete TCBMs, and a few states suggested that the signing and ratification of the CTBT by the DPRK would constitute one such measure. Most countries looked forward to progress on verifiable disarmament of the DPRK, while a few countries looked forward to progress on the complete, verifiable, irreversible disarmament (CVID) of the DPRK.

Outside of the importance of safeguards, the Middle East was perhaps the most frequently discussed topic in Cluster 2, both in the general debate and during the specific issues segment. More specifically, the discussion focused on the creation of a WMDFZ in the Middle East, though whether this zone would also ban the delivery systems for such WMDs is still the subject of some debate. The discussion of the WMDFZME this year has a bit of novelty due to UN General Assembly Resolution 73/546 passed in 2018, which entrusts the UN Secretary-General with the convening of a conference on the establishment of such a zone. The conference is scheduled from 18-22 November 2019.

Nearly all delegations reaffirmed their commitment to the 1995 Review Conference final document, including the resolution on the Middle East. Many delegations expressed their wish that all delegations attend the November 2019 conference, and indicated disappointment that some states have already decided not to do so. Some states, but significantly fewer than in previous years, regretted the failure to convene the 2012 conference on the WMDFZ in the Middle East as agreed to in the 2010 Review Conference final document. Most delegations called on Israel to accede to the NPT as a NNWS, conclude a CSA with the IAEA, and place all of its nuclear facilities under safeguards. Many delegations also called on Israel and the US to attend the conference to be held in November 2019.

That’s all for now! Stay tuned for a brief on Cluster 3, as well as a discussion of the Chair’s draft recommendations for the 2020 Review Conference, and the 2019 Final Report of the PrepCom.

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CNS PREPCOM BRIEF: DAYS 6 & 7 (Cluster 3)

The Cluster 3 general statements and discussion of specific issues took place largely on days 6 and 7. During the general debate segment of Cluster 3 that was governed by a speaker’s list, 51 delegates delivered statements on behalf of States Parties and regional/political coalitions. Nearly 15 delegations spoke during the specific issues segment of Cluster 3. The specific issues segment of Cluster 3 was not governed by a predetermined speakers list in keeping with the practice in Cluster 1 and 2, and past PrepComs in this cycle, and as announced by the Chair at the beginning of this year’s deliberations.

The discussions in the general debate segment of Cluster 3 focused primarily on the numerous benefits of the peaceful use of nuclear energy and technology, while the specific issues segment focused largely on strengthening the review process, with just a few interventions made on the subjects of Article X and other topics related to peaceful use.

Nearly all States Parties highlighted the multitude of benefits that come from the access granted to the peaceful use of nuclear energy and technology provided under the Treaty. Many states explicitly reaffirmed Article IV of the Treaty as one of the fundamental objectives, stating the “inalienable right” of all the parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination and in conformity with Articles I and II of this Treaty. Many other states also emphasized that such an inalienable right must be exercised only under the highest standards of nuclear safety, security, and nonproliferation.

Many states expressed that all states in conformity with their IAEA safeguards obligations have the right to participate in the fullest possible exchange of nuclear technology, knowledge, training, materials, equipment and research for peaceful purposes, with particular consideration for the developing world. Some states focused more on the need for conformity with IAEA safeguards obligations, and noted that compliance with the nonproliferation commitments under the Treaty created the trust necessary for the promotion of the peaceful use of nuclear energy and technology. Numerous other states focused especially on the need for the due consideration of the developing world.

Nearly all states reaffirmed the professionalism, technical competence, impartiality, and apolitical nature of the IAEA, and thanked the organization for its work. Most states strongly condemned any effort to politicize or interfere with the work of the IAEA, and called on all States Parties to respect the work, judgment, and technical competence of the agency. Many states also called for the IAEA to continue, in its work, to support the Sustainable Development Goals.

Most states also noted the numerous sectors and fields of research in addition to energy production ameliorated by nuclear technology, including medicine and human health, agriculture, water resources, environmental health, and art restoration and the preservation of cultural heritage. Many states noted the socio-economic benefits derived from the application of peaceful nuclear technology to these sectors.

Many states expressed that the transfer of nuclear materials, technology, equipment, research, or knowledge to states not party to the Treaty is in violation of the nonproliferation commitments of the NPT, and undermines the benefits derived by the NNWS who are party to the Treaty. Some states explicitly called on certain States Parties to cease such transfers to Israel. A few states called for the cessation of such transfers to any state not party to the Treaty, with a few naming Israel, India and Pakistan as examples.

Numerous states reaffirmed the importance of agreements and conventions meant to bolster nuclear safety and security, including the Convention on Nuclear Safety (CNS), the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials and its protocol (CPPNM), the International Convention on the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (ICSANT). Many states also lauded the role of the CTBTO and its International Monitoring System (IMS) stations in capacity building, training, and monitoring in case of emergency. Additionally, some states called for the minimization of the use of HEU in civilian applications, and called for all States Parties to make efforts towards the substitution of LEU whenever possible.

Many states noted that attacks or the threat of attacks on nuclear facilities of any kind pose a grave threat to peace and security. Some states highlighted the potential environmental and humanitarian consequences of such an attack. Most states called for an internationally negotiated, multilateral, legally-binding mechanism to prohibit such attacks or the threat thereof.

Some states expressed support for multilateral approaches to the nuclear fuel cycle, including the establishment of LEU fuel banks in Kazakhstan and Siberia. A few states expressed that such multilateral approaches must not preclude the right of any State Party to the treaty to undertake their own unilateral efforts in this regard.

Some states called for the “implementation of the Code of Practice on the International Transboundary Movement of Radioactive Waste of the IAEA as a means of enhancing the protection of all States from the dumping of radioactive waste on their territories.” (Indonesia on behalf of NAM; Cluster 3 remarks). A few states called for other States Parties to the Treaty who have experience in radioactive waste cleanup to provide personnel and technical assistance with cleanup operations on their territories.

The specific issues segment of Cluster 3 focused largely on strengthening the review process, with additional discussions on the importance of a gender perspective in the NPT process, the suggestion of a high-level segment during the 2020 NPT Review Conference, and a few mentions of Article X.

Most states suggested the allocation of time for a discussion of the strengthened review process (SRP) at the 2020 NPT RevCon, and many states also suggested the creation of a working group on this issue at the RevCon. Some states expressed concern at this proposal, stating that such a working group could take time away from discussion on substantive issues. A few states indicated that the SRP did not need to be discussed. Most states also appealed for the earliest possible appointment of the full cabinet for the 2020 RevCon, citing the need for as much time as possible for consultations prior to the 2020 RevCon. Some states and coalitions indicated that increased transparency and reporting, including the agreement upon a standard reporting form, would be one modality of supporting the SRP. Other states rejected this suggestion. A few states noted that there are too many prepared statements and little interactive genuine debate at both the PrepComs and RevCons, and called on delegations to consider ways in which the latter could be promoted, including, inter alia, the shortening of statements.

Many states supported a high-level segment during the 2020 Review Conference, in light of the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the entry into force of the Treaty, and in order to reflect the importance of the Treaty to international peace and stability. It was suggested by one delegation that the high-level segment take place at the ministerial level.

A few delegations mentioned Article X of the Treaty, and the right of any State Party to withdraw under Article X. Additional delegations noted that a withdrawal from the Treaty would weaken the NPT, and should be discouraged. Some delegations also noted that a withdrawal from the Treaty would not absolve a state of issues of noncompliance with the NPT prior to the invocation of Article X, and that a state would still be responsible for addressing said noncompliance. Many states and delegations expressed that the issue of how to handle a hypothetical future withdrawal from the Treaty needed to be addressed.

That’s all for now! Stay tuned for a brief on issues of procedure related to the 2020RevCon, a discussion of gender in the context of this PrepCom (a very popular topic) and the NPT regime writ large, as well as the discussion of the Chair’s draft recommendations for the 2020 Review Conference.

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Many summaries and analyses of this year’s PrepCom have focused substantially on the Right of Reply portion of discussions, so it is only reasonable that these CNS briefs address them as well. For those less familiar with the procedural rules of Preparatory Committees, a State Party may approach the UN Secretariat to request a Right of Reply to any statement made by a delegation during that session of the PrepCom, in accordance with Rule 19 of the 2015 Review Conference Rules of Procedure, which apply mutatis mutandis to this PrepCom. The Rights of Reply are usually given the floor at the end of the day. There are three important things to note about the Right of Reply. The first is that Rights of Reply are limited in time and number – each delegation is only allowed two per instance that the Chair opens the floor for the Rights of Reply, with the first intervention limited to five minutes, and the second intervention limited to two minutes. The second is that the vast majority of delegations/coalitions present do not make use of them – so far this year, only 5 different delegations/coalitions have requested a Right of Reply (albeit, most more than once). The third thing to remember is that, because of the limited time allowed for Rights of Reply, they generally use up no more than 30 minutes at the end of the day, which amounts to 8.33% of the 6 hours allotted for formal session each day. Sometimes they go on for longer, but often, they take even less time.

As was the case at the 2018 Preparatory Committee, the 2019 PrepCom Rights of Reply can be characterized as contentious at best. Other descriptive words might include: inflammatory, accusatory, frank, aggressive, and, in some cases, disrespectful. They compel a great deal of interest from all present; one notices delegates and NGO attendees alike perk up in their chairs and turn up the volume on their earpieces when the Right of Reply portion of the day is about to begin. One reason for this is assuredly the bold statements that delegations are willing to make during this part of the day, which often reveal a tonal shift akin to Jekyll and Hyde. The other reason for the close attention? It is the only portion of the plenary during general debate and the Cluster segments in which delegations truly hold an interactive debate. (It should be noted that at the time of publication, there is an ongoing interactive debate on the draft recommendations proposed by the Chair, which will be covered in a future brief).

When one considers the fact that the sole portion of interactive debate in the plenary context has such a vitriolic character, it feels difficult to foresee how a consensus outcome will be reached, either on a set of recommendations for the 2020 RevCon produced at this PrepCom, or next year at the 2020 RevCon itself. What those in the NGO community (such as your author) generally do not see are the bilateral and multilateral consultations that take place behind the scenes and outside of the plenary halls. Given this, it is difficult to conceptualize how much the Rights of Reply are affecting these closed consultations. However, the Rights of Reply do not appear to be affecting the tone of the plenary sessions writ large, and this should provide some source of optimism for all those concerned about the deteriorating international security environment, and the degradation of longstanding bilateral and multilateral agreements. Though the statements given during the Cluster plenaries and the general debate segments are clearly prepared ahead of time and approved by capitals, and thus may not have the opportunity to be strongly influenced by the tone of the Rights of Reply, they are generally speaking less confrontational than those delivered last year (even though the Rights of Reply are arguably more so).

These considerations in mind, here is a lengthy, if not exhaustive summary from the Rights of Reply thus far. Your author has attempted to reproduce the rights of reply as faithfully and coherently as possible, both in terms of content and tone, and using the same language as the delegations when possible, in the summaries below. Neither the author nor CNS are affirming the veracity of any of the statements below either in part or as a whole; rather, these summaries are simply meant to reproduce the remarks delivered for those who were not present. The Right of Reply has been exercised by the following States Parties thus far: the United States, the Russian Federation, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Syrian Arab Republic, and the Netherlands.

DAY 1 (April 29, 2019)

The Rights of Reply on Day 1 began with a US response to Iran and Russia. The United States noted that it ended participation in the JCPOA because it failed to protect US people and interests, and highlighted its current strategy of maximum pressure to achieve a more comprehensive new deal that encompasses Iranian regional activities, support for terrorism, and ballistic missile work. The US called on Iran to stop denying its past work on nuclear weapons, and to provide access to any location requested by the IAEA. The US also stated that both the Obama and Trump administrations had determined that Russia has been in violation of the INF since 2014 with the SSC-8 and its launchers, and that it was up to Russia to destroy these before August 2, 2019 in order to save the INF. The US also noted that it continues to support the establishment of a WMDFZ in the Middle East, but that such a dialogue must be pursued voluntarily and include all regional states. As such, the US expressed regret over UNGA Resolution 73/546 which it characterized as forcing through a Middle East conference in 2019.

The Netherlands, speaking on behalf of a group of states amounting to NATO, highlighted the upcoming 50th anniversary of the Treaty’s entry into force. The Netherlands reaffirmed that NATO’s nuclear arrangements have never been in conflict with commitments under the NPT, including Articles I and II. The Netherlands clarified that those articles do not prohibit such actions as regional basing of nuclear weapons and joint training. The Netherlands also reaffirmed its support for creating an environment conducive to disarmament.

The Russian Federation noted that its statement was in response to a number of delegations, including the US and others. Russia called statements on its alleged violation of the INF Treaty unjustified and unfounded, and stated that no proof is being given of guilt. Russia called the US withdrawal from the INF the latest attempt to undermine a treaty and pressure opponents such as China. Russia stated that it would not change its approach to the INF until the US does so. The remarks ended prematurely when the interpreter stated that the speaker was speaking too quickly.

The Islamic Republic of Iran thanked those delegations who expressed support for the JCPOA, and stated that the nonsense accusation made by the US was a clear fabrication. Iran affirmed that the US abuses the UN Security Council to advance animosity against Iran, and that the US believes that it is the guardian of the world.

The US exercised a second Right of Reply to note Iran’s hostage taking activities and state that Iran is the main state sponsor of terrorism.

Iran exercised a second Right of Reply to state that the US is the main supporter of terrorism in the world, and that it created both ISIS and Al Qaeda.

DAY 2 (April 30, 2019)

The US exercised its Right of Reply to respond to Syria, and indicated that it was unfortunate to take time away from productive discussion to engage in rights of reply, but that flights of fancy must be addressed. The US stated that it is not violating Article I of the Treaty with the NATO nuclear arrangements, as previously discussed. The US noted that the charges leveled against NATO only became an issue in the NPT context when one state began raising the issue to divert attention from its bad behavior. The US delegate expressed confusion about the charge that the US 2018 Nuclear Posture Review established nuclear testing centers, and indicated that he was not aware of the existence of any such center. The US expressed its amusement at Syria’s declared support for the establishment of a WMDFZ in the Middle East, given the fact that such a zone would include chemical weapons. The US noted that Syria is one of the principle states blocking the establishment of such a zone.

A delegate from the Syrian Arab Republic speaking during a Right of Reply. (2019 NPT PrepCom)

A delegate from the Syrian Arab Republic speaking during a Right of Reply.

The Syrian Arab Republic exercised its Right of Reply to note that the only state who has used all types of WMDs is a party to the NPT, and express its astonishment that despite the fact that the PrepCom is in the NPT context, one state is still talking about chemical weapons. Syria stated that they would like to know more about the 25 chemical weapons laboratories administered by the US outside of its territory if they are going to talk about chemical weapons. Syria questioned aloud if the US delegate had read Article I of the NOT, given their violation of it. Syria stated that the US should respect the NPT, and that the claims that states in the Middle East were blocking the creation of a WMDFZ include Israel, which is completely backed by the United States. Syria closed by stating that it has cooperated with and provided access to the IAEA, so charges of noncooperation with the IAEA are false.

The US exercised its second Right of Reply to say that the US supports Israel because they are a beacon of light in the region, and that if Syria ever becomes a similar beacon of democracy and freedom, maybe it will be possible to establish a WMDFZ in the Middle East.

Syria used its second Right of Reply to remind delegations that the US just said that they cooperate with Israel, which is a violation of the NPT.

DAY 4 (May 2, 2019)

The United States exercised its Right of Reply in response to Russia, saying that as usual, Russia had provided a laundry list of false claims about the US being the sole source of all that is wrong with nonproliferation and arms control. The US noted that when confronted with questions about objectionable Russian behavior, Russia responds with more questions. The US stated that it had its own questions for Russia, including about Russia’s claim that its arms control treaty obligations have been met. The US asked whether these obligations included the INF, or if Russia had forgotten about the Skripal case and the CWC, or if it considered the Open Skies Treaty, which Russia has violated. The US affirmed that Russia has not answered these questions, and in the meantime, little green men from Russia wreak havoc and destruction in Ukraine, Russia supports and defends hideous regimes around the globe, and that Russia’s propaganda regime is tailored to present a Russia that wants only to do good and be a partner with the US and Europe. The US delegate noted that the unfortunate reality is different and that the world is not fooled, and that he hopes Russia will recognize its folly and move in a more cooperative direction internationally. The US also emphasized an important final point with regard to Russia, which was the Russian claim in the morning session that the US unilaterally removed itself from accountability under New START given its large number of strategic systems. The US emphasized that it remains in full compliance and committed to implementation of New START and that it would continue engaging Russia through bilateral channels regarding the extension of New START. The US briefly addressed Iran as well, saying that Iran is the leading state sponsor of terrorism and that it had, in the past, pursued a clandestine nuclear weapons program, whereas the US is fully in compliance with the NPT. The US called on Iran to cease its pathological prevarication.

The Russian Federation exercised their Right of Reply to respond to the United States, saying that the plenary had just seen a clear example of propaganda by an irresponsible state that does not contribute to the NPT. Russia affirmed that it could respond to the questions raised with one response, that being that Russia scrupulously complies with all the treaties to which it has acceded and ratified, unlike some of its partners. Russia expressed regret that this type of discussion had once again appeared in the midst of the work before the PrepCom, and noted that such propaganda and attacks by states would not lead to the strengthening of international security.

A delegate from the Islamic Republic of Iran speaking during a Right of Reply. (2019 NPT PrepCom)

A delegate from the Islamic Republic of Iran speaking during a Right of Reply.

The Islamic Republic of Iran noted the US perspective that Iran was baselessly accusing it (the US) of noncompliance, but stated that the US delegate was wrong. Iran asserted that its assessment and judgement of US noncompliance under Article VI of the Treaty is objective and fact-based. Iran reminded delegations that the US has the obligation to pursue negotiations in good faith on the cessation of the nuclear arms race, but expressed that the US has spared no effort in blocking any kind of international negotiations on nuclear disarmament, and cited the TPNW as an example. Iran also stated that the US is stoking a new nuclear arms race, and cited the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review, which states that the US will not seek the ratification of the CTBT and that the US retains the option to resume testing to assure the effectiveness of the nuclear weapons arsenal. Iran also stated that in 2000 and 2010, the US committed to observe the principle of irreversibility in disarmament, but asked delegations to consider that the US was on the path of withdrawal from the INF treaty, which is a reversal of such a commitment. Iran also pointed to the US commencement of building new nuclear capable IRBMs. The delegate of Iran concluded his statement by stating that his time was over, but that there was much more to say on how the US is not in compliance with its NPT obligations.

The US exercised its second Right of Reply to respond to the ridiculous accusations by the representative of Iran. The US noted that it had reduced its stockpile by 88% from the height of the Cold War, and that this is proof of its commitment to Treaty obligations. The US also stated that it opposes the TPNW, stands by everything included in its 2018 Nuclear Posture Review, and asked the Iranian delegate to please get his facts right. The US also affirmed that it has not blocked the establishment of subsidiary body in the Conference on Disarmament on any topic. The US closed by expressing that if Iran does not want to be called the leading sponsor of terrorism in the world, it needs to stop carrying out acts of terror around the world.

Iran exercised its second Right of Reply to continue the list of US noncompliance with Article VI. Iran stated that the US abrogated the ABM Treaty and disrupted so-called strategic stability, in violation of its 2000 RevCon commitments. Iran stated that the US has walked back its 2000 and 2010 RevCon commitments, and is now spending 1.2 trillion on modernization efforts and the development of so-called usable low-yield nuclear weapons. Iran expressed that everyone in the room knows that no one can trust the US statement, and concluded by stating that the US negotiates and then withdraws from all treaties that it has negotiated and signed, and that no one can trust the US because it has zero credibility.

Thanks to Jakob Lengacher and Cameron Henderson, both Graduate Research Assistants at CNS, for their assistance in reporting on the Rights of Reply delivered on Day 4.

DAY 6 (May 6, 2019)

The US exercised its Right of Reply to respond to comments made by Syria and Russia, who both accused the US of fabricating evidence. The US implored delegations to review the May 2011 IAEA Board of Governors report on Syrian compliance with IAEA safeguards and the Deir Alzour site. The US stated that the claim made by Russia and Syria that Syria is cooperating with the IAEA is false, and noted that Syria stopped providing new information on the Deir Alzour site in June 2008. The US also asserted that the provision of access to the miniature neutron source reactor (MNSR) by Syria does not solve or address past noncompliance issues with IAEA safeguards. The US concluded by noting that its domestic law does not allow the transfer of nuclear materials and technology to Israel, as charged by Syria.

Syria exercised its Right of Reply to state that the US makes false accusations against Syria, is subversive, and lies. Syria noted that all present know the lie perpetrated by Secretary of State Colin Powell in 2003. Syria expressed that activities taking place in US research centers should be based on facts and evidence, and that the international community and the IAEA should rely on clear and bulletproof evidence, not information provided by intelligence information. Syria stated that the next Review Conference needs to deal with US noncompliance, and concluded by noting that Syria has engaged positively and constructively with the IAEA on the nature of the Deir Alzour site, and let in IAEA inspectors, and allowed them to move freely.

DAY 7 (May 7, 2019)

The US exercised its Right of Reply to address Iran, and correct the Iranian statement in Cluster 3 for the record. The US noted that Iran quoted Article IV, but didn’t quote the latter half discussing Articles I and II of the Treaty. The US expressed concern over the trove of information and documents that Iran maintained related to nuclear weapons development, and reaffirmed its position of maximum pressure vis-à-vis Iran. The US closed by noting that it cannot support business as usual with Iran, given its concerns over longstanding noncompliance by Iran.

Iran exercised its Right of Reply and stated that the US is still in material breach of Article IV of the Treaty by imposing unilateral sanctions against civil nuclear cooperation projects with Non-Nuclear Weapons States. Iran noted that the US allegations are lies that Iran hears a lot, and stated that the US has a dark track record when it comes to spreading lies and allegations, pointing to allegations made in 2003 as an example. Iran stated that it is and was fully in compliance when the US spread its lies, and that the US has no credibility to judge the implementation of obligations, since the US is in violation of Articles I, IV, and VI of the Treaty, and thus US has no credibility to level allegations against compliant members of the NPT. Iran noted that the world and the international community gives no value to the repeated claims made by the US, and that its breach of international law is a reality in today’s world, unfortunately. Iran expressed that the US is violating obligations under UNSCR2231 and under UN Charter Article 41 with its recent decision to impose sanctions against civil nuclear cooperation. Iran concluded by calling the US a bull in the jungle, and noted that the international community will not accept this.

That’s all for now! Additional Rights of Reply will be added to this brief as they happen, so that all will be compiled in one place. Stay tuned for Cluster 2 & 3 briefs, as well as negotiations on the draft recommendations proposed by the Chair.

The daily brief is written by Margaret Rowland Croy. She holds a M.A. in Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies (MIIS) at Monterey, and worked at CNS in Monterey during her time as a student. This is her third time at a PrepCom; in 2017, she attended as a student with CNS, and in 2018, she attended in her capacity as a Political Affairs Intern with the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), which organizes each conference and supports the Chair.


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