John Kerry Speaks on the 45th Anniversary of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

United Nations Headquarters Glistens in Afternoon Sun

This year marks the 70th anniversary of nuclear bombs being dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. In addition, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) entered into force 45 years ago last week. This landmark treaty put a stop to the spread of nuclear weapons beyond five permanent members of the UN Security Council, and has been an enduring agreement that has made the world a safer place. As the only country to have ever dropped nuclear weapons (), Secretary of State John Kerry made a statement marking this date, and reinforced the United States’ commitment to the NPT and nuclear non-proliferation. Kerry made an excellent case for America’s commitment to non-proliferation, and explaining its importance as the bedrock of global security.

Secretary Kerry stated that the NPT has more state signatories that any other arms control or non-proliferation treaty, “but there is more work to do, and we must recommit ourselves to this task.”

So what is the United States doing to uphold the principles of the NPT and accomplish the goals the treaty set out to do? 1) The US is seeking a diplomatic agreement to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful; 2) the US is working with the international community to end North Korea’s nuclear program, and bring the country back into the NPT regime and under the IAEA’s safeguard processes; and 3) with the Russian Federation, America is reducing its nuclear weapons “to levels not seen since the 1950s,” under the New START Treaty.

Additionally, Secretary Kerry reinforced the United States’ commitment to the 2010 Action Plan from that year’s NPT Review Conference. With the 2015 NPT Review Conference just around the corner, Secretary Kerry’s words could not be more timely. However, there has not been much progress on the 2010 Action Plan. This follows the failure in implementation of the 13 steps laid out in the 2000 NPT Review Conference, which in turn followed the failure to realize the objectives of the 1995 review conference.

Perhaps no one is more frustrated than the non-nuclear weapons state parties to the treaty on the lack of the overall lack of progress on Article VI of the NPT. Nevertheless, as Secretary Kerry pointed out, the United States and Russia have made huge progress in reducing their nuclear stockpiles. Naturally, this falls short of the Article VI goal of “complete disarmament.” After 45 years, it’s an understandable frustration of the non-nuclear weapon states, who signed on under the belief that eventually they would be living in a nuclear weapon-free world. While the progress is slow, it is not an excuse to abandon a treaty that has served the world so well for so long.

For the Past 45 years, the NPT has been an invaluable tool for preventing nuclear weapons from proliferating into many more nations, as well as ending up in the hands of non-state actors. As the Secretary stated, “it [the NPT] is the bedrock foundation for nuclear nonproliferation, disarmament, and the peaceful use of nuclear energy.” However, the U.S. must do more to ensure the credibility and viability of the treaty.