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Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT)

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The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) of 1968 is the foundation of the international nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament regime.

190 states are parties to the NPT, while four are not: India, Pakistan, Israel and South Sudan (North Korea declared its withdrawal from the Treaty in January 2003 and its final status has been left open by the NPT community since then). Germany acceded to the Treaty on 2 May 1975.

Challenges

Measuring seismic shock waves generated by the nuclear explosion
Measuring seismic shock waves generated by the nuclear explosion © picture-alliance/dpa

Maintaining a balance between the three pillars of the NPT – nuclear disarmament, a strengthened non-proliferation regime and the peaceful use of nuclear energy – is the central challenge. This also involves promoting the universalisation of the Treaty and appealing to India, Pakistan, Israel and South Sudan to accede to the Treaty.

The Treaty is under great pressure, as shown by the example of North Korea, which conducted its fourth nuclear test in January 2016. Discussion on holding a conference to create a zone in the Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction is also putting strain on the NPT. One of the reasons for the termination of the 9th Review Conference (27 April to 22 May 2015) without a new consensus was because of this issue. The humanitarian impact of nuclear weapon detonations was another controversial discussion topic.

More on Iran’s nuclear programme

Review Conferences

Review Conferences are held every five years with the aim of documenting progress made in implementing the Treaty, deciding on further action and strengthening the Treaty so that it measures up to current challenges. Despite intensive negotiations, the 2015 Review Conference was unable to reach an agreement on a final document. That conference took place in more difficult strategic circumstances than the successful conference five years previously, which in 2010 adopted a comprehensive Action Plan on the three core issues of the NPT and profited from the positive momentum generated by the negotiations on the New START Treaty. At the 2015 Review Conference the problem of establishing a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East was also accompanied by fundamental differences of opinion on the future of nuclear disarmament. Germany worked right up to the last minute with the partners of the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative (NPDI) to find a compromise.

Bundestag debate in 1958 on the nuclear armament of the Federal Armed Forces (Federal Photo Archives)
Bundestag debate in 1958 on the nuclear armament of the Federal Armed Forces (Federal Photo Archives) © Bundesbildstelle

International Atomic Agency (IAEA)

The position of Germany and the EU

In the German Government’s view, the necessary strengthening of the Treaty regime, particularly through consistent implementation of the Action Plan adopted by the 2010 Review Conference, remains a crucial goal. Germany is committed in this context to a strong profile for the EU, but is also engaged with like-minded partners from other regions of the world. Now the goal must be to strengthen the NPT with new initiatives.

NPDI – Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative

The Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative (NPDI) plays a key role in this area. The group was formed on 22 September 2010 with a meeting of Foreign Ministers during the UN General Assembly. It aims to promote nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation in keeping with the 8th NPT Review Conference final document (2010). It is resolved to take practical steps towards the goal of a world without nuclear weapons. Besides the initiators – Australia and Japan – the members are Canada, Chile, Germany, Mexico, the Netherlands, Poland, Turkey, Nigeria, the Philippines and the United Arab Emirates.

It is important for the initiative’s signal effect that Western states are working together with representatives of the Non-Aligned Movement. The last NPDI Foreign Ministers meeting was held in Hiroshima/Japan on 12 April 2014. Co‑chaired by Japan and Australia, the representatives of 12 states addressed how to proceed in terms of curbing nuclear armament and issued a joint statement ( Joint statement on 8th NPDI (Non‑Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative) Ministerial Meeting PDF / 39 KB ).

Humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons

From 8 to 9 December 2014 Austria hosted the 3rd Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons. 158 states, including for the first time the United States and Great Britain, took part, alongside a large number of non‑governmental organisations. The German delegation also included civil society representatives.

Peace monument in Hiroshima On 6 August 1945 the first atomic bomb was dropped on this Japanese city.
Peace monument in Hiroshima On 6 August 1945 the first atomic bomb was dropped on this Japanese city. © picture alliance / Friso Gentsch

Increasing numbers of states and civil society players have recently begun to consider the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons and the risks associated with them. Two other international conferences focused on this issue in Oslo, Norway in March 2013 and in Nayarit, Mexico in February 2014. The series of conferences is designed to give even greater momentum to efforts to eliminate these weapons through high‑profile debate of the consequences and risks of nuclear weapons. The Vienna conference spotlighted aspects concerning international law for the first time. However, it was not possible to reach a consensus on how best to achieve the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons. The discussion on a ban on nuclear weapons or a step‑by‑step approach was continued at the NPT Review Conference in 2015. A large number of states called for the commencement of negotiations on a ban on nuclear weapons. The NPT nuclear weapons states (P5) unanimously reject this proposal. The Federal Government believes that another round of disarmament talks between the United States and Russia would be an important step forward. President Obama’s offer from 2013 would provide a good basis for this.

More information

Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons PDF / 28 KB

Final Document of the 2010 Review Conference PDF / 155 KB

Position of the European Union for the 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons PDF / 52 KB

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