March 5th was the 40th anniversary of the Non Proliferation Treaty entering into force. The treaty is formally known as the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, or less formally as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT or NNPT).
The NPT is essentially a treaty to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, and 189 nations are parties to the treaty. They include the five major nuclear weapons states, the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, and China. North Korea, one of the signatories, acceded, violated and then withdrew from the treaty in 2003. India, Pakistan and Israel - all known to possess nuclear weapons - are not parties to the treaty.
The NPT came about out of a concern that should more nations build nuclear weapons, the security of all nations would be put at risk, and the risk of accidents, unauthorized use, miscalculation and escalation of small nuclear conflicts would increase. Frank Aiken, Irish Minister for External Affairs, initiated the NPT process in 1958, and by 1968 the treaty was negotiated and ready for signatures.
The nuclear powers have not, for the better part of the past 40 years, made good on the promises made in the NPT, and the U.S. has provided far less than a stellar example. The result has been, as one would expect, that nuclear weapons have proliferated, and we now stand at a crossroad. It is one at which we must stop and take a serious look, for the consequences of the wrong road will one day prove catastrophic.
With the next NPT Review Conference coming up in May 2010, we have much work to do! I will be focusing a number of posts on the NPT and our role (as citizens) in pursuing a strengthened non-proliferation regime. I highly recommend Joseph Gerson's article published today in CommonDreams.org titled Obama's Nuclear Credibility Gap. Gerson has been involved in the U.S. peace and justice movement since the 1960s, and is deeply involved in the movement to abolish nuclear weapons.
Thanks to Gerson's foresight and hard work, this May's NPT Review Conference will have plenty of company, including 2000 Japanese activists (and atom bomb survivors) who will travel to New York for the May 2nd International Day of Action for a Nuclear Free Future. I am grateful to Joseph for helping me arrange a visit to Seattle by members of the Japanese delegation on its way home after the New York gathering as part of our effort to build awareness, educate people, and get them engaged in the movement to abolish nuclear weapons.
For information about the 2010 NPT Review Conference International Planning Committee's activities, check out Peace And Justice Now. While you are there be sure to sign the petition to President Obama asking him to fulfill U.S. responsibilities to the NPT.