RECNA NPT Blog 2022 Final Edition No.1

1. No Substantive Outcome, but Discussion was Meaningful: Nuclear Disarmament and the Treaty on Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW)

It is extremely regrettable that the Review Conference ended inconclusively. However, the fact that 151 countries held discussions for four weeks amidst the heightened risk of the use of nuclear weapons is of no small significance. It should be noted that even about nuclear disarmament issues, where differences of opinion are so pronounced, it was possible for the State parties to come to a compromise.

On the flip side of the coin, the draft final document was not in line with the wishes of the non-nuclear-weapon States (NNWS), which are particularly eager to make progress in nuclear disarmament. On the final day, many of the NNWS which took the floor after the Chair declared that agreement could not be reached, such as Cuba, who described it as a “lack of political will,” harshly condemned the stance of all five nuclear-weapon States (NWS) in going against nuclear disarmament.

Throughout the four weeks, the Western NWS and Russia, as well as China, repeatedly condemned the policies and actions of the other side, while justifying their own. Many NNWS continued to press the responsibility of the five NWS for compliance with their nuclear disarmament obligations stipulated in the Article VI and for full implementation of past agreements.

Reflecting this sentiment, the draft final document reaffirmed the continued validity of the 1995, 2000, and 2010 agreements. The inhumanity of nuclear weapons was also mentioned in the final document, going beyond the 2010 agreed document.

However, it did not meet the expectations of many NNWS. In the process of drafting the final document, many nuclear disarmament-related languages and expressions demanded by NNWS were deleted or watered-down one after another. The draft final reports issued by Main Committee I, which deals with nuclear disarmament, and Subsidiary Body 1, which deals with nuclear disarmament and security assurance, and the draft final document have all undergone two revisions (hereinafter referred to as the “draft,” “revised draft,” and “second revised draft”), and with each successive revision, the nuclear disarmament language clearly became “weaker.” The following are some of the points that can be mentioned:

No First Use

The policy of “no first use” of nuclear weapons, which a state declares that nuclear weapons will not be used unless attacked by an enemy with nuclear weapons, has been considered as an important and effective measure for reducing nuclear risk and, ultimately, for advancing nuclear disarmament. At present, however, China is the only one of the five NWS that has publicly declared such a policy. The August 12 draft report of Subsidiary Body 1 urged the NWS and their allies to “agree to take steps to reduce and eliminate the role of nuclear weapons in national and collective security doctrines; for NWS this should include the adoption of no-first use or sole purpose doctrines.” The same sentences appeared in the Main Committee I revised report (August 19) and the draft final document (August 22) in almost the same form (although “sole purpose” was omitted), but the phrase “no first use” was deleted from the second revised draft final document (August 25).

Negative Security Assurance (NSA)

The continued demand by many NNWS for a firm and concrete commitment not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons, including through the conclusion of an international treaty, is not new. However, reflecting the increased interest in NSA by NNWS since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, the Subsidiary Body 1 draft report includes a more in-depth demand for NSA. The draft report includes the following statements: as “interim measures” leading to the abolition of nuclear weapons, the NWS “not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear weapon State Party to the Treaty under any circumstances,” and “to provide effective, universal, unconditional, non-discriminatory and irrevocable legally binding security assurances to all the NNWS parties to the Treaty through the urgent commencement of negotiations on such assurances against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons under all circumstances.”

So far, NWS have committed to the provision of NSA through Security Council resolutions and individual policy documents, but except for China, countries have attached various conditions and reservations to these commitments. Thus, this language was a request for NWS to take a step forward from the status quo. However, the August 25th revised final document significantly downgraded the language, saying the NWS commit “to honor and respect all existing security assurances undertaken by them;” and “not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon Parties to the Treaty consistent with their respective national statements.” The insertion of “consistent with their respective national statements” keeps the NSA within the scope of the current conditional NSA.

Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW)

As the TPNW has steadily taken steps forward, including the entry into force of the Treaty and the holding of the First Meeting of the Conference of the State Parties to the Treaty, it was noteworthy how the draft final document would refer to this. One of the key issues on the agenda of the First Meeting of the Conference of the State Parties held in Vienna in June was the relationship between TPNW and the NPT, and the “Action Plan” adopted there included a persistent appeal to opponents of the treaty for the complementarity between the two.

Arguments that the final document should touch on the significance of the TPNW and its consistency with the NPT also emanated even from countries that are not parties to the TPNW, such as Switzerland. However, the Main Committee I draft report states, ” The Conference acknowledges that the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was adopted on 7 July 2017. It was opened to signature by the Secretary-General of the United Nations on 20 September 2017. The Conference further acknowledges that the Treaty entered into force on 22 January 2021 and held its first Meeting of States Parties on 21-23 June 2022, which concluded with the adoption of a declaration and an action plan” and was limited to a list of facts. This was followed by the draft final document and a revised draft final document, but in the second revised draft final document, the last sentence ” which concluded with the adoption of a declaration and an action plan” was deleted. The “fact” that the declaration and action plan were adopted, let alone their significance and consistency, was not mentioned, and this shows the strong resistance on the part of the NWS.

Throughout the four-week period, the supporters of the TPNW consistently displayed a restrained attitude. However, following the announcement that the conference did not reach the consensus, some of these countries voiced their support for the TPNW more clearly. For example, the joint statement by the State parties and signatories of the TPNW read out by Mexico reiterated their support for the NPT, saying, ” our efforts to negotiate and bring into force the TPNW are themselves the clearest expression of commitment to the NPT that reinforces our commitment to non-proliferation and to attain and maintain a world without nuclear weapons,” and urged, “all states committed to attain and maintain a world without nuclear weapons to join the TPNW without delay.” The rift between these countries and the NWS and “nuclear umbrella states” that resist the TPNW is likely to deepen in the future.

(Keiko Nakamura)

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