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Hiroshima for Global Peace

[Column 4] The TPNW and the Future of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Regime

 [Column 4] The TPNW and the Future of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Regime

Masahiko Asada

On July 7, 2017, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) was adopted by an overwhelming majority of 122 votes in favor, one against and one abstention. From a standpoint solely based on this fact, one may have an impression that an epoch-making treaty to ban nuclear weapons was concluded, reflecting the “collective will” of the international community as a whole. This is not the case, however; the 122 States do not include any of the nuclear-armed States ―neither the nuclear- weapon States (NWS) under the Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty (NPT) nor other nuclear weapon possessor States― or non-nuclear-weapon States (NNWS) allied with NWS (nuclear-allied NNWS). This fact generates concern that the TPNW may create, or further expand, a grave “division” in the international community.

Such a division may be created and/or expanded not only between nuclear-armed States and NNWS, but also between nuclear-allied NNWS and non-aligned (NAM) NNWS. In fact, such divisions may have already emerged prior to the conclusion of the treaty. While only five States (the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia and Israel) voted against the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolution entitled “Taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations” in 2014, as many as 35 States (seven times more), including most of nuclear-armed States and nuclear-allied NNWS, voted against the 2016 version of the resolution according to which the UN conference to negotiate a TPNW was decided to convene. It could be said that the decision to start the negotiation and the conclusion of the TPNW resulted in pushing nuclear-

allied NNWS towards the nuclear-armed States’ side by pressuring them to give up their reliance on extended nuclear deterrence, notwithstanding those NNWS had, at least in surface appearance, taken similar lines with the NAM countries in terms of pursuing nuclear disarmament.

The TPNW, which was ratified by just five signatories as of January 2018, will enter into force in due course with the necessary ratifications of 50 States. According to the treaty, the TPNW process will start with the convening of the first meeting of States Parties within one year of its entry into force, which will be followed by further such meetings on a biennial basis. It would be natural that many of the NAM countries will emphasize the significance of the TPNW, which they took the initiatives to make. It is also easily expected that they would prefer the TPNW to the NPT, due particularly to the lack of progress in nuclear disarmament within the framework of the NPT. In such a case, a division between nuclear- allied NNWS and non-aligned NNWS, as well as one between nuclear-armed states and NNWS, will inevitably be further deepened. It would be more than unfortunate for nuclear disarmament should many NAM States lose interest in the NPT, and such a trend would seriously undermine the NPT process as a universal forum in which both NWS and NNWS participate.

One positive aspect of the adoption of the TPNW would be that it has dramatically demonstrated NAM countries’ frustrations over a lack of conspicuous progress in nuclear disarmament both multilaterally (since the adoption of the CTBT) and bilaterally (after the entry into force of the U.S.-Russian New START). It is of great importance that the NAM countries continue to get NWS to recognize the imperative of their efforts in nuclear disarmament within the NPT process, while reaffirming the paramount value of the NPT even after the entry into force of the TPNW.

Dr. Masahiko Asada

Professor, Graduate School of Law, Kyoto University