I would like to update the House on the outcomes of the Washington conference of the five nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) recognised nuclear weapon states (P5) on nuclear disarmament, which took place 27-29 June.
This was the third such conference at senior official level. It followed conferences in the UK (September 2009) and Paris (June 2011), which brought together policy officials, military staff and nuclear scientists from all five nuclear weapons states.
The conference was an important part of the international dialogue on nuclear disarmament demonstrating a shared determination to make progress on the commitments set out in the 2010 NPT action plan.
The P5 issued the following statement after the meeting:
“The five nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) nuclear-weapon states, or “P5”, met in Washington on June 27-29, 2012, in the wake of the 2009 London and 2011 Paris P5 conferences to review progress towards fulfilling the commitments made at the 2010 NPT review conference, and to continue discussions on issues related to all three pillars of the NPT—non-proliferation, the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and disarmament, including confidence-building, transparency, and verification experiences.
The P5 reaffirmed their commitment to the shared goal of nuclear disarmament and emphasized the importance of working together in implementing the 2010 NPT review conference action plan. The P5 reviewed significant developments in the context of the NPT since the 2011 Paris P5 conference. In particular, the P5 reviewed the outcome of the 2012 preparatory committee for the 2015 NPT review conference, continued their discussion of how to report on their relevant activities, and shared views, across all three pillars of the NPT, on objectives for the 2013 preparatory committee and the intersessional period. The 2012 PrepCom outcome included issuance of a P5 statement comprehensively addressing issues in all three pillars (NPT/CONF.2015/PC.I/12).
The P5 continued their previous discussions on the issues of transparency, mutual confidence, and verification, and considered proposals for a standard reporting form. The P5 recognise the importance of establishing a firm foundation for mutual confidence and further disarmament efforts, and the P5 will continue their discussions in multiple ways within the P5, with a view to reporting to the 2014 PrepCom, consistent with their commitments under actions 5, 20, and 21 of the 2010 RevCon final document.
Participants received a briefing from the United States on US activities at the Nevada National Security Site. This was offered with a view to demonstrate ideas for additional approaches to transparency.
Another unilateral measure was a tour of the US Nuclear Risk Reduction Center located at the US Department of State, where the P5 representatives have observed how the United States maintains a communications center to simultaneously implement notification regimes, including under the new strategic arms reduction treaty (New START), Hague Code of Conduct Against Ballistic Missile Proliferation (HCOC), and Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Vienna document.
The P5 agreed on the work plan for a P5 working group led by China, assigned to develop a glossary of definitions for key nuclear terms that will increase P5 mutual understanding and facilitate further P5 discussions on nuclear matters.
The P5 again shared information on their respective bilateral and multilateral experiences in verification, including information on the P5 expert level meeting hosted by the UK in April, at which the UK shared the outcomes and lessons from the UK/Norway Initiative disarmament verification research project. The P5 heard presentations on lessons learned from New START treaty implementation, were given an overview of US/UK verification work, and agreed to consider attending a follow-up P5 briefing on this work to be hosted by the United States.
As a further follow-up to the 2010 NPT review conference, the P5 shared their views on how to discourage abuse of the NPT withdrawal provision (Article X), and how to respond to notifications made consistent with the provisions of that article. The discussion included modalities under which NPT states party could respond collectively and individually to a notification of withdrawal, including through arrangements regarding the disposition of equipment and materials acquired or derived under safeguards during NPT membership. The P5 agreed that states remain responsible under international law for violations of the treaty committed prior to withdrawal.
The P5 underlined the fundamental importance of an effective International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards system in preventing nuclear proliferation and facilitating co-operation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. The P5 discussed concrete proposals for strengthening IAEA safeguards, including through promoting the universal adoption of the additional protocol; and the reinforcement of the IAEA’s resources and capabilities for effective safeguards implementation, including verification of declarations by states.
The P5 reiterated their commitment to promote and ensure the swift entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) and its universalisation. The P5 reviewed progress in developing the CTBT’s verification regime in all its aspects and efforts towards entry into force. Ways to enhance the momentum for completing the verification regime, including the on-site inspection component, were explored. The P5 called upon all states to uphold their national moratoria on nuclear weapons test explosions or any other nuclear explosion, and to refrain from acts that would defeat the object and purpose of the treaty pending its entry into force. The moratoria, though important, are not substitutes for legally binding obligations under the CTBT.
The P5 discussed ways to advance a mutual goal of achieving a legally binding, verifiable international ban on the production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons. The P5 reiterated their support for the immediate start of negotiations on a treaty encompassing such a ban in the conference on disarmament (CD), building on CD/1864, and exchanged perspectives on ways to break the current impasse in the CD, including by continuing their efforts with other relevant partners to promote such negotiations within the CD.
The P5 remain concerned about serious challenges to the non-proliferation regime and in this connection, recalled their joint statement of May 3 at the preparatory committee of the NPT.
An exchange of views on how to support a successful conference in 2012 on a middle east zone free of weapons of mass destruction was continued.
The P5 agreed to continue to meet at all appropriate levels on nuclear issues to further promote dialogue and mutual confidence. The P5 will follow on their discussions and hold a fourth P5 conference in the context of the next NPT preparatory committee”.