Future of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and South Africa's Position to convince Powers of the World to Disarm and sign the Treaty

NATIONAL ASSEMBLY

FOR ORAL REPLY

QUESTION NO: 313

PUBLISHED IN INTERNAL QUESTION PAPER NO 35 OF 24 OCTOBER 2006

MR D J SITHOLE (ANC) TO ASK THE MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS:

(1) What is the future of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the campaign for nuclear disarmament;

(2) whether South Africa could convince the powers in the world to disarm and sign the NPT; if not, what is the position in this regard; if so, what are the relevant details?

REPLY:

(1) The NPT, with 189 States Parties, remains one of most universal multilateral instruments and the only one that governs the area of nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament. The major objective of the NPT is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to promote co-operation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament. Only three countries, India, Israel and Pakistan, have not joined the Treaty and one State Party, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), has announced its withdrawal from the NPT. If we assess the performance of this instrument, few would disagree that the Treaty has been largely successful in preventing the further proliferation of nuclear weapons. Today, nine countries, including the five nuclear-weapon States, are known to have a nuclear weapons programme. On the other hand, what the Treaty has not achieved is the complete, irreversible and verifiable elimination of all nuclear weapons. Whilst significant progress was made in terms of securing commitments in the area of nuclear disarmament during the period immediately following of the end of the Cold War, particularly the 1995 NPT decision on "Principles and Objectives" and the 13 practical steps for systematic and progressive efforts towards nuclear disarmament agreed to during 2000, the last number of years have seen a reversal of the solemn undertakings and commitments made by States Parties towards the total elimination of all nuclear weapons. These included the refusal by nuclear-weapon States to act in accordance with these undertakings and the blocking of efforts to have these commitments reaffirmed. In addition, the last few years have also witnessed the development of new types of nuclear weapons and the increased prominence of such weapons in strategic doctrines.

At the 2005 NPT Review Conference, South Africa worked actively for a positive outcome, which would have built upon and strengthened the results of previous Review Conferences, in particular the 1995 and 2000 NPT Review Conferences, but that would have also addressed the important developments and serious challenges to the NPT that have arisen since 2000, including the illicit (AQ Kahn) network, proposals on the nuclear fuel cycle and the strengthening of safeguards and export controls. Unfortunately, the Review Conference was unable to agree on any substantive outcome and could only reach consensus on a procedural report.

At the beginning of that Conference, South Africa stated that notwithstanding the setback of a failed preparatory process for the Review Conference, the continued vitality and effectiveness of the NPT remains dependent on the implementation of the Treaty Regime as a whole - on addressing all challenges facing the Treaty. South Africa urged States Parties to guard against the continual reopening of the debate on obligations, commitments and undertakings as this could also provide the logical foundation for others to reinterpret, negate or withdraw from other parts of the NPT bargains. South Africa believes that if we allow agreements arrived at one Conference to be rolled back at the next, we will undermine the very premise on which the multilateral system is based. It is this rollback of undertaking and commitments, particularly those related to nuclear disarmament, that has led to what some describe as a crisis within the NPT.

We regret that the 2005 NPT Review Conference lost the opportunity to make realistic progress on the most pertinent challenges facing the Treaty. Progress can only be made if we are able to mobilise the necessary political will to build on previous undertakings and commitments, which reinforces the NPT so as to continue on an irreversible path towards the achievement of the purposes and objectives of the Treaty. South Africa believes that the case for non-proliferation rests on the primary objective of the NPT to eliminate all nuclear weapons and, hence, the central importance of Article VI of the Treaty. It requires from those who do not possess, not to acquire, and for those who possess, to eliminate.

The future of the Treaty will depend on the renewed commitment and political will of all States Parties to fully implement, in an equal and balanced manner, all provisions of the Treaty.

The campaign for nuclear disarmament can only achieve its goals, if we are able to again mobilise and join forces between governments, non-governmental organisations, civil society and the general public to create the necessary awareness of the dangers that these weapons hold for humanity as a whole.

(2) At the relevant disarmament and non-proliferation fora, South Africa has consistently reiterated its principled positions on nuclear disarmament. These include our strong conviction that nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction are not a source of security, but only serve to further increase insecurity. The continued retention of these weapons, as well as the development of new types of nuclear weapons also means that significant resources that can be used for development purposes are diverted towards the maintenance and further development of these instruments of destruction. As we enter the next review cycle that will lead up to the 2010 NPT Review Conference, South Africa, together with like-minded partners in the Non-Aligned Movement and other groupings such as the New Agenda Coalition, will continue to urge the nuclear-weapon States to reaffirm their commitments and unequivocal undertakings made at the previous Review Conferences to systematically and progressively eliminate their nuclear arsenals.

As President Mbeki said just prior to the 2005 NPT Review Conference, "The situation should not be allowed to continue that the Nuclear Weapons States oblige everybody merely to focus on the issue of non-proliferation, while completely ignoring the demand of the overwhelming majority of humanity for the complete abolition of WMDs, an objective which our country has already achieved". This remains our primary focus as we enter the next review cycle of the NPT.

South Africa will also continue to work towards the universalisation of the Treaty by encouraging those that have not yet joined the NPT to do so without delay.

Copies of South Africa's statements delivered at the 2005 NPT Review Conference are available from the Department's Parliamentary Office.

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