Experts warn of the possible collapse of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty regime

November 01, 2006

Iraq might not have been hiding Weapons of Mass Destruction, but that hasn't stopped experts worrying that such terrible weapons may spread, and that nuclear weapons are no longer being used for security alone, but for deterrence.

Worse, there is good reason to fear the possible collapse of the NPT regime, according to a group of experts assembled for a book published this month, "Arms Control after Iraq: Normative and Operational Challenges" (United Nations University Press),

The book draws together a range of experts on weapons control and international politics to explore the issues of non-proliferation, arms control and disarmament.

"The stated reason for invading Iraq was its alleged clandestine pursuit of weapons of mass destruction in defiance of UN resolutions. Even though the allegation was proven false, the international community remains preoccupied with the threat of the proliferation and use of such terrible weapons," say the book's editors, Waheguru Pal Singh Sidhu and Ramesh Thakur.

"This has three interlinked components: non-proliferation, arms control and disarmament. Some countries, from within the shelter of the NPT, could either develop a full-fledged weapons capability, covertly and illegally, or else acquire all the materials and expertise needed for a weapons programme and withdraw from the treaty when they are ready to proceed with weaponization," the editors say.

"There is good reason to fear the erosion and possible collapse of the whole NPT regime over the longer term: treaties already negotiated and signed could unravel through non-ratification or breakouts; the testing of nuclear weapons could be resumed; and there is a lengthening list of proliferation-sensitive countries of concern. Both the 2004 NPT Review Conference and the UN World Summit in 2005 failed to address the urgent challenge of arms control."

The questions discussed in the book include doctrinal issues regarding the use of force in general; the implications of a shift in the utility of nuclear weapons from deterrence to compellence and of a focus on non-proliferation to the neglect of disarmament; the place and role of the United Nations in controlling the spread and use of WMD; the regional dynamics of proliferation concerns in North-east Asia and the Middle East; the policy drivers of the NPT and extra-NPT nuclear powers; and the threats posed by the possible acquisition of nuclear weapons and missiles by non-state actors.
-end-


United Nations University

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