Main Committee III - Subsidiary Body: Article X

Dr. Alex Burkart, Deputy Director of the Office of Nuclear Energy, Safety, and Security,
2015 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, United Nations
New York City
May 8, 2015

(As Prepared for Delivery)

Mr. Chairman,

As noted in our previous remarks, the United States welcomes this opportunity to address the important issue of the Treaty’s Article X.1, regarding the right of Parties to withdraw. Working papers from the NPDI and the Vienna Group of Ten, and Working Paper 47, to which we are a co-sponsor, and the wide spectrum of states that spoke to this topic earlier this week, demonstrate broad and strong interest in addressing this issue in this Subsidiary Body. There are several themes from our discussion so far to which I would like to respond.

We agree that Article X cannot be viewed in isolation from other elements of the Treaty in any outcome document, but neither should it be ignored. Review of Article X.1 is consistent with previous and current NPT RevCon practices where implementation of obligations under other provisions (Articles I, II, III, IV, VI, and VII) are also reviewed. As has been said by others, the best tool we have to do so is to address implementation of all aspects of the Treaty; this work is currently ongoing in the appropriate Main Committees and the other Subsidiary Bodies. The topic of discussion in this particular subsidiary body is the topic of Article X.1 among the other provisions of the Treaty.

To share a bit more of our perspective on this, we do believe withdrawal is a cross-cutting issue. It affects peaceful uses, non-proliferation and disarmament:

  • On peaceful uses, if supplier states cannot have confidence that material and equipment they have provided will not be used for nuclear weapons, even were a party to withdraw, they will feel constrained in their ability to cooperate;
  • On non-proliferation, withdrawal of one party will increase pressure on other Parties in the region to withdraw, reversing the sense of security that the NPT was supposed to create;
  • On disarmament, if a State Party abuses the provision and manages to acquire nuclear weapons as the DPRK did, it creates a significant barrier to attaining the security environment that is a precondition for disarmament;
  • Withdrawal from the NPT could also impact existing nuclear weapon free zones and discourage the creating of new NWFZs. Furthermore, if a state withdraws, we move away from working towards universality.

We also agree fully with the comments made already that this provision, and our discussion of it, is equally relevant both to nuclear weapon states and to non-nuclear weapon states. We reiterate and agree with the point that has been made that no effort to amend or otherwise reinterpret the Treaty’s provisions can be made outside the proper processes and for that we don’t view the discussion here as leading to either of those outcomes.

We recognize and respect the legitimate right of withdrawal. At the same time, obligations undertaken by NPT Parties must have meaning as states rely on the NPT for their security. We reaffirm the legitimacy of the consequent concerns of States Parties that remain Parties to the NPT, and that they are justified in considering how they would discourage such withdrawal and respond if a withdrawing state were to abuse the right to withdrawal.

Like others, we hold out the goal of universal adherence to the NPT. The Treaty’s benefits will be enhanced by progress toward universality, and would be undermined by any reversal of that progress, particularly for the purpose of pursuing nuclear weapons. Action 23 from the 2010 Final Document “calls upon all States parties to exert all efforts to promote universal adherence to the Treaty, and not to undertake any actions that can negatively affect the prospects for universality of the Treaty.” It is entirely in line with this action to call on States Parties to exert all efforts to discourage such a reversal.

We share the view voiced by many this week that a holistic approach should be taken to encourage States Parties to remain parties to and discourage them from withdrawing from the Treaty, a sentiment we would be glad to see reflected in any conference outcome.

There are several key themes that we would like to see addressed in an outcome document:

  • First, the fact that, under customary international law, a withdrawing Party remains responsible for violations of the Treaty committed prior to its withdrawal.
  • Second, withdrawal would not affect any other existing legal or political commitments between the withdrawing State and any other Party, including nonproliferation conditions in bilateral cooperation agreements that remain in force after withdrawal from the NPT.
  • Third, it would be an abuse of the right to withdrawal if a withdrawing state were to then develop nuclear weapons using nuclear material, equipment, or technology that was supplied for peaceful purposes on the basis of that state’s NPT membership.
  • Fourth, given the seriousness of a withdrawal from the NPT with respect to the security of NPT Parties, there are actions that could be taken following a notice of withdrawal, such as consultations by the NPT Parties, the IAEA Board of Governors, or the UN Security Council.
  • Fifth, recognizing that Comprehensive Safeguards Agreements would terminate upon withdrawal from the NPT, supplier States could proactively create mechanisms to ensure that nuclear supplies remain subject to safeguards in perpetuity, or they could require that a withdrawing Party return and/or dismantle nuclear materials, equipment, and technologies received from abroad prior to withdrawal.
  • And finally, that States parties recognize that any withdrawal would be contrary to the shared objective of universality.

Mr. Chairman,

We have made a number of concrete proposals of language on this topic, which I will not re-read now. The recommendations of Working Paper 47 are supported by many, and we view the recommendations made by the NPDI and the Vienna Group of 10 as being very similar in intention. We look forward to further discussion of these proposals today, and to consideration of potential text.

Thank you.