New UNSC resolution on nuclear disarmament: "enjoyment of the benefits of the NPT by a State Party can be assured only by its compliance with the obligations thereunder"

U.S. President Barack Obama presided over the UN Security Council meeting today that adopted Resolution 1887, which notes, among other things, that “enjoyment of the benefits of the NPT by a State Party can be assured only by its compliance with the obligations thereunder”. That is a nice, consensus phrase — and one directed specifically at Iran, which is claiming the right to a full enrichment cycle of uranium for nuclear fuel, but which is accused of not having reported the development of its program in a timely manner.

The SC meeting, and agreement on the resolution, is a very major diplomatic achievement for Obama.

The resolution says that the main aim is, eventually, “a world without nuclear weapons”, which would be a total reversal of the doctrine of Mutually-Assured Destruction that is believed to have kept the Cold War from developing into a hot war.

Resolution 1887 also “Calls upon all States that are not Parties to the NPT to accede to the Treaty as non-nuclear-weapon States so as to achieve its universality at an early date, and pending their accession to the Treaty, to adhere to its terms”. Israel is one of the countries most affected by this clause — as are also India and Pakistan (and apparently also now North Korea). These are countries which were regarded as “threshhold” countries when the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) was adopted in 1967, but which have since reportedly become nuclear weapons states (though Israel maintains its policy of “nuclear ambiguity”). The only states recognized as nuclear powers by the NPT are the five Permanent Members of the UN Security Council — pure coincidence, if you believe some of these council members …

Most of these former-threshhold states are not likely to be happy at the prospect that they can only join the NPT as non-nuclear-weapons states.

In any case, it was a rare UN Security Council summit, with 14 of the 15 UN Security Council members represented by their Heads of State and/or Government — and only Libyan leader Muammar Ghaddafi was absent (though he addressed the UN General Assembly in New York earlier this week, and Libya is currently one of the non-permanent members of the UNSC).

Instead, this SC meeting was addressed by Libya’s UN ambassador, Abdurrahman Mohamed Shalgam, who told the meeting that Israel’s nuclear sites should be subject to international oversight, or “Otherwise, all the states of the Middle East will say, `We have a right to develop nuclear weapons. Why Israel alone?’ “. Israel has not ratified the NPT, and thus cannot be accused of having violated its provisions. John Bolton, when he was in charge of disarmament matters for the American State Department, said when pressed by a journalist once in Geneva that the U.S. does believe Israel should join the NPT — but eventually, in the far distant future. Another American official later added that this would have to be as a “non-nuclear-weapon State”. This does not, apparently, mean that the former “threshhold” states would have to eliminate their arsenals, but rather that they would not be allowed to assume the title (or perquisites) of nuclear weapons powers.

As remote as they may seem, major documents such as this often become the basis and the justification for major future international policy moves.
The Associated Press counted, and reported that the resolution contains 2,300 words.

It is a document full of nuance.

It was promoted by the U.S., and adopted in a UNSC meeting chaired by the President of the U.S., which calls for all states to “sign and ratify” the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), “thereby bringing the treaty into force at an early date”. The CTBT was, in fact, promoted by the U.S., and which then-U.S. President Bill Clinton did sign in 1996 (after the text of the treaty was finally agreed in international negotiations in which the U.S. actively participate) did not even try to take to the U.S. Congress for approval in 1999, because Republican opposition to curbs they said would be imposed on U.S. sovereignty so clearly indicated that the move would have been defeated.

This resolution also calls for the negotiation of a treaty limiting the production of fissile material — this has been the chief U.S. goal in the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament for years, but it has been held up because the U.S. has not agreed to deal with China’s main concern, which is the prevention of an arms-race in outer-space. The Conference on Disarmament works on consensus, and China’s position has been backed by Russia. Other countries have also objected to other aspects of this proposal, including the fact that the proposed new Fissile Ban treaty would only limit future production of the fissile material needed to make nuclear explosions — meaning that the big and powerful countries would be able to keep the large stockpiles they already have of fissile material, while all others would be left as “have-nots” (just as with nuclear weapons themselves, which is the basis of the objections to the NPT from some countries, including those former “threshhold” countries who have since become self-declared nuclear weapons states, as India did in 1998. This self-definition has now officially been shot down in this new UNSC resolution adopted today).

The UN press release providing coverage of the meeting stated that: “Unanimously adopting resolution 1887 (2009) in its first comprehensive action on nuclear issues since the mid-1990s, Council members emphasized that the body had a primary responsibility to address nuclear threats, and that all situations of non-compliance with nuclear treaties should be brought to its attention … The meeting began at 9:30 a.m. and ended at 11:30 a.m”. All of this, within two hours.

The UN press release also reported that “the Security Council had before it a concept paper conveyed in a letter dated 15 September 2009 (document S/2009/463) from the President of the Security Council [this month, it’s the U.S] and addressed to the Secretary-General [which said that] the Security Council will focus broadly on nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament and not on any specific countries, with the goals of underscoring the global reach of proliferation threats; the broadly shared obligation to respond; the positive steps taken to reduce nuclear dangers; and the Council’s essential role in addressing growing and pressing nuclear threats … According to the paper, the summit is intended as an opportunity to build support for fissile material cut-off treaty negotiations; the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Additional Protocol; ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty; and strategic arms control, including new negotiations over the Treaty on the Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (START)”.

While the U.S. said that the focus would be broad rather than on any specific countries, the individual statements made by world leaders in the UN SC meeting Thursday did name names — especially Iran and North Korea …

A group of countries including Western Europeans and the U.S. are due to meet again on 1 October with an Iranian delegation in Geneva, Switzerland for “Geneva Talks Two”, a continuation of a day-long meeting held in Geneva in July 2008.


The statements made by major world leaders are, at least in this summary form, rather obtuse and unrevealing, but the presence and participation of the speakers shows the importance of this meeting,and the significance of this resolution.


Here are the OPERATIVE PARAGRAPHS of the new UNSC Resolution:

“1. Emphasizes that a situation of non-compliance with non-proliferation obligations shall be brought to the attention of the Security Council, which will determine if that situation constitutes a threat to international peace and security, and emphasizes the Security Council’s primary responsibility in addressing such threats;

“2. Calls upon States Parties to the NPT to comply fully with all their obligations and fulfil their commitments under the Treaty,

“3. Notes that enjoyment of the benefits of the NPT by a State Party can be assured only by its compliance with the obligations thereunder;

“4. Calls upon all States that are not Parties to the NPT to accede to the Treaty as non-nuclear-weapon States so as to achieve its universality at an early date, and pending their accession to the Treaty, to adhere to its terms;

“5. Calls upon the Parties to the NPT, pursuant to Article VI of the Treaty, to undertake to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to nuclear arms reduction and disarmament, and on a Treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control, and calls on all other States to join in this endeavour;

“6. Calls upon all States Parties to the NPT to cooperate so that the 2010 NPT Review Conference can successfully strengthen the Treaty and set realistic and achievable goals in all the Treaty’s three pillars: non-proliferation, the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and disarmament;

“7. Calls upon all States to refrain from conducting a nuclear test explosion and to sign and ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), thereby bringing the treaty into force at an early date;

“8. Calls upon the Conference on Disarmament to negotiate a Treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices as soon as possible, welcomes the Conference on Disarmament’s adoption by consensus of its Program of Work in 2009, and requests all Member States to cooperate in guiding the Conference to an early commencement of substantive work;

“9. Recalls the statements by each of the five nuclear-weapon States, noted by resolution 984 (1995), in which they give security assurances against the use of nuclear weapons to non-nuclear-weapon State Parties to the NPT, and affirms that such security assurances strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation regime;

“10. Expresses particular concern at the current major challenges to the non?proliferation regime that the Security Council has acted upon, demands that the parties concerned comply fully with their obligations under the relevant Security Council resolutions, and reaffirms its call upon them to find an early negotiated solution to these issues;

“11. Encourages efforts to ensure development of peaceful uses of nuclear energy by countries seeking to maintain or develop their capacities in this field in a framework that reduces proliferation risk and adheres to the highest international standards for safeguards, security, and safety;

“12. Underlines that the NPT recognizes in Article IV the inalienable right of the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination and in conformity with Articles I and II, and recalls in this context Article III of the NPT and Article II of the IAEA Statute;

“13. Calls upon States to adopt stricter national controls for the export of sensitive goods and technologies of the nuclear fuel cycle;

“14. Encourages the work of the IAEA on multilateral approaches to the nuclear fuel cycle, including assurances of nuclear fuel supply and related measures, as effective means of addressing the expanding need for nuclear fuel and nuclear fuel services and minimizing the risk of proliferation, and urges the IAEA Board of Governors to agree upon measures to this end as soon as possible;

“15. Affirms that effective IAEA safeguards are essential to prevent nuclear proliferation and to facilitate cooperation in the field of peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and in that regard:

a. Calls upon all non-nuclear-weapon States party to the NPT that have yet to bring into force a comprehensive safeguards agreement or a modified small quantities protocol to do so immediately,

b. Calls upon all States to sign, ratify and implement an additional protocol, which together with comprehensive safeguards agreements constitute essential elements of the IAEA safeguards system,

c. Stresses the importance for all Member States to ensure that the IAEA continue to have all the necessary resources and authority to verify the declared use of nuclear materials and facilities and the absence of undeclared activities, and for the IAEA to report to the Council accordingly as appropriate;

“16. Encourages States to provide the IAEA with the cooperation necessary for it to verify whether a state is in compliance with its safeguards obligations, and affirms the Security Council’s resolve to support the IAEA’s efforts to that end, consistent with its authorities under the Charter;

“17. Undertakes to address without delay any State’s notice of withdrawal from the NPT, including the events described in the statement provided by the State pursuant to Article X of the Treaty, while noting ongoing discussions in the course of the NPT review on identifying modalities under which NPT States Parties could collectively respond to notification of withdrawal, and affirms that a State remains responsible under international law for violations of the NPT committed prior to its withdrawal;

“18. Encourages States to require as a condition of nuclear exports that the recipient State agree that, in the event that it should terminate, withdraw from, or be found by the IAEA Board of Governors to be in non-compliance with its IAEA safeguards agreement, the supplier state would have a right to require the return of nuclear material and equipment provided prior to such termination, non-compliance or withdrawal, as well as any special nuclear material produced through the use of such material or equipment;

“19. Encourages States to consider whether a recipient State has signed and ratified an additional protocol based on the model additional protocol in making nuclear export decisions;

“20. Urges States to require as a condition of nuclear exports that the recipient State agree that, in the event that it should terminate its IAEA safeguards agreement, safeguards shall continue with respect to any nuclear material and equipment provided prior to such termination, as well as any special nuclear material produced through the use of such material or equipment;

“21. Calls for universal adherence to the Convention on Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials and its 2005 Amendment, and the Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism;

“22. Welcomes the March 2009 recommendations of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1540 (2004) to make more effective use of existing funding mechanisms, including the consideration of the establishment of a voluntary fund, and affirms its commitment to promote full implementation of resolution 1540 (2004) by Member States by ensuring effective and sustainable support for the activities of the 1540 Committee;

“23. Reaffirms the need for full implementation of resolution 1540 (2004) by Member States and, with an aim of preventing access to, or assistance and financing for, weapons of mass destruction, related materials and their means of delivery by non-State actors, as defined in the resolution, calls upon Member States to cooperate actively with the Committee established pursuant to that resolution and the IAEA, including rendering assistance, at their request, for their implementation of resolution 1540 (2004) provisions, and in this context welcomes the forthcoming comprehensive review of the status of implementation of resolution 1540 (2004) with a view to increasing its effectiveness, and calls upon all States to participate actively in this review;

“24. Calls upon Member States to share best practices with a view to improved safety standards and nuclear security practices and raise standards of nuclear security to reduce the risk of nuclear terrorism, with the aim of securing all vulnerable nuclear material from such risks within four years;

“25. Calls upon all States to manage responsibly and minimize to the greatest extent that is technically and economically feasible the use of highly enriched uranium for civilian purposes, including by working to convert research reactors and radioisotope production processes to the use of low enriched uranium fuels and targets;

“26. Calls upon all States to improve their national capabilities to detect, deter, and disrupt illicit trafficking in nuclear materials throughout their territories, and calls upon those States in a position to do so to work to enhance international partnerships and capacity building in this regard;

“27. Urges all States to take all appropriate national measures in accordance with their national authorities and legislation, and consistent with international law, to prevent proliferation financing and shipments, to strengthen export controls, to secure sensitive materials, and to control access to intangible transfers of technology;

“28. Declares its resolve to monitor closely any situations involving the proliferation of nuclear weapons, their means of delivery or related material, including to or by non-State actors as they are defined in resolution 1540 (2004), and, as appropriate, to take such measures as may be necessary to ensure the maintenance of international peace and security;

29. Decides to remain seized of the matter.”


Here are summaries of the statements made by world leaders in the UNSC meeting

The UN press summary reported that “In his own opening remarks, President Obama said today’s resolution represented agreement on a broad framework of action to end the complex dangers posed by nuclear weapons in the post-cold-war world. To that end, he pledged that the United States would host a Summit in early 2010 and pursue deeper cuts in its nuclear arsenal, as well as agreements with the Russian Federation towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons. He said the resolution also emphasized the Council’s authority to respond to violations of its resolutions, including those on Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea … BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States, recalled that the Council and the United Nations had been established at the dawn of the nuclear age, pointing out, however, that while a nuclear nightmare had been averted during the cold war, today the threat of proliferation was growing in scope and complexity. Just one explosion of a nuclear weapon could kill hundreds of thousands of people. He said the resolution just adopted had brought agreement on a broad framework for action, which acknowledged that all nations had a right to peaceful energy, and those with nuclear weapons had a responsibility to move towards nuclear disarmament. To that end, the United States would host a summit in April 2010. The resolution would strengthen institutions and initiatives aimed at battling trafficking in proliferation-sensitive materials. It also called for safeguards to prevent the conversion of peaceful nuclear energy programmes into weapons programmes. The Council had the authority to respond to violations of its resolutions, including on Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he said, emphasizing: ‘The world must stand together and demonstrate that international law is not an empty promise’. The coming 12 months would be critical to implementation of today’s resolution. Meanwhile, the United States would pursue an agreement with the Russian Federation, as well as ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. It would also make deeper cuts in its nuclear arsenal. ‘We harbour no illusions about the difficulty of bringing about a world without nuclear weapons’, he said … Quoting the words of President Ronald Reagan, he said a nuclear war could not be won and must never be fought. ‘We must never stop until we see the day that nuclear arms are banished from the face of the earth. That is our task’.”

The UN press summary also reported that “DMITRY A. MEDVEDEV, President of the Russian Federation, said it was obvious to everyone that issues of security were indivisible and global, and that only on the basis of the principles of equal security, mutual respect and compliance with the norms of international law could present-day threats be fought … He said his country and the United States had carried out unprecedented reductions of strategic nuclear arsenals within the framework of the Treaty on the Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (START). The Russian Federation had tabled proposals during negotiations with the United States on a new treaty to replace START. ‘Our main shared goal is to untie the problem ‘knots’ in the field of non-proliferation and disarmament’. That could not be done overnight, as the level of distrust among nations remained too high. Because one of the most dangerous threats was that of nuclear components falling into the hands of terrorists, the existing “back-up system” needed to be modernized. Underscoring the importance of paying serious attention to peaceful nuclear energy, he said new nuclear power programmes were a key to resolving many of the problems afflicting developing countries and an incentive for the economic growth of entire regions. However, States that carried out such programmes must abide strictly by non-proliferation agreements. Priorities in that area of international cooperation included strengthening the global non-proliferation and disarmament regime, in particular the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The system of IAEA safeguards must be universalized, and there was also a need to stimulate the earliest ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty by the countries that would ensure its entry into force, he said. The non-proliferation measures of resolution 1540 (2004) must be used more actively. An effective solution to many of the aforementioned problems depended on an interested and constructive engagement by all parties. The strengthening of the nuclear non-proliferation regime and the intensification of the nuclear disarmament process required, most of all, strategic stability and ensuring security for each and every State”.

“HU JINTAO, President of China, said the threat of nuclear war must be eliminated and, for that to happen, global balance and stability must be maintained. Proliferation should be stopped and the nuclear-weapon States with the largest arsenals should reduce those arsenals, after which the countries with smaller arsenals should also begin to reduce their stocks. In order to maintain the peace, there was a need to renounce the use of nuclear weapons, as well as the threat to use them against non-nuclear-weapon States. Work should then commence on the total elimination of nuclear weapons. He said the right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy should be actively promoted, and IAEA strengthened with that purpose in mind. All countries should strictly observe international agreements on nuclear materials and work together to keep them out of the hands of terrorists. China had always supported the complete elimination of nuclear weapons. It only held them for defence, having pledge no first use and no use against non-nuclear-weapon States. China would continue to play its role in upholding international non-proliferation and disarmament regimes”.

“GORDON BROWN, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, said that by adopting today’s resolution, nuclear-weapon States as well as non-nuclear-weapon States were making a commitment to ridding the world of the danger of nuclear weapons. The global bargain underlying the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty –- based on the obligations of both categories – must be strengthened through a renewed commitment to ensuring compliance and seeking solutions to technical and policy problems.
The world could not stand by when Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea breached international agreements, he stressed. Far tougher sanctions must be considered, and the onus of proof must be on those who breached the relevant agreements. The United Kingdom welcomed efforts to prevent nuclear weapons and materials to fall into the hands of terrorists. It had already taken major steps towards nuclear disarmament, reducing its nuclear-strike capability by 75 per cent. Retaining only the absolute minimum needed for national security, Britain would also reduce its nuclear submarine fleet as a way to further disarmament goals“.

“NICOLAS SARKOZY, President of France, said that while ‘we are here to secure peace’ and say yes to reductions, two countries, ‘right in front of us’, were doing exactly the opposite. What Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea were doing undermined the very rules upon which collective security was based. In violation of five Security Council resolutions, Iran had been pursuing nuclear proliferation activities since 2005, he said. It was amassing centrifuges and enriched uranium, while threatening to wipe a United Nations Member State off the map. ‘There comes a moment when stubborn facts will compel us to take a decision’, he said. ‘Let us not accept violations of international rules. We may all be threatened one day by a neighbour endowing itself with nuclear weapons’, he warned. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had acted in defiance of all Council decisions since 1993 and continued to test ballistic missiles. ‘Here again there will come a moment one has to agree and take sanctions’, he said, stressing that Council decisions must be followed by results. Access to nuclear energy for peaceful uses and the transfer of technology by developed countries would obviate the arguments of those who claimed that they needed nuclear energy but converted their nuclear programmes into weapons programmes. Given the courage to impose sanctions against those violating Council resolutions, efforts towards a world without nuclear weapons would gain credibility. Those who needed civil nuclear energy must be guaranteed sustainable access to technologies and fuel, and the entire international community must be assured that nuclear safety, security and non-proliferation would be respected”.

“YUKIO HATOYAMA, Prime Minister of Japan, said his country had a special moral responsibility as the only one ever to suffer atomic bombings. Describing a wrenching visit to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, he encouraged all world leaders to experience on their own the cruelty of nuclear weapons by speaking to survivors. Having chosen not to possess nuclear weapons, Japan had signed onto the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty to try to prevent the vicious cycle of a nuclear arms race. He renewed his country’s commitment to the three non-nuclear principles no matter what steps neighbouring countries took. Calling upon nuclear-weapons States to reduce their arsenals and foster a climate for disarmament by ensuring transparency, he urged the pursuit of nuclear-weapons-free zones, the entry into force of the Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty and the immediate start of negotiations on a fissile materials cut-off treaty. Japan would engage in active diplomacy to lead international efforts on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. The nuclear development programme of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, in particular, posed a grave threat to the peace and security of Japan and the world as a whole, and must not be tolerated. There was also cause for concern about Iran in that regard and there was a need to strengthen the Council’s ability to meet those challenges”.

“MOHAMED ELBARADEI, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said the global nuclear non-proliferation regime was fragile and had many shortcomings. The Agency’s legal authority was severely limited in some countries because many States had not concluded the required agreements with it. Thus, in more than 90 States, it either had no verification authority at all, or its authority was inadequate and it could not verify whether a country was engaged in clandestine nuclear activities. Moreover, the verification mandate centred on nuclear material. If IAEA was expected to pursue possible weaponization activities, it must be given the corresponding legal authority, he emphasized. A growing number of States had mastered uranium enrichment or plutonium reprocessing and any one of them could develop nuclear weapons quickly if they decided to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, he warned. To address that, a shift was needed from national to multinational control of the nuclear fuel cycle. He said he had proposed the establishment of a low enriched uranium bank that would ensure that States had a guaranteed supply of nuclear fuel for their reactors and did not need to process their own. Complementary proposals had subsequently been made, but the main goal should be the full multi-nationalization of the fuel cycle towards nuclear disarmament. Furthermore, efforts to secure vulnerable material must be intensified to prevent extremists from getting hold of nuclear and radioactive material. He went on to emphasize that the Agency itself must be strengthened. Given its dilapidated infrastructure and lack of state-of-the-art technology, which was key to modern-day verification, it would be unable to fulfil its mission at current funding levels. To provide the agency with the kind of supportive political process it needed, the Council needed to develop a comprehensive compliance mechanism to address consistently and systematically cases of non-compliance with or withdrawal from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, including giving the Agency additional authority to act in specific cases as needed. More emphasis should also be placed on addressing the insecurities behind many proliferation cases, including endemic conflicts, security imbalances and lack of trust, he said. By demonstrating their commitment to achieving a world free of nuclear weapons, the nuclear-weapon States would give legitimacy to the non-proliferation regime and gain moral authority in their calls to curb the proliferation of those inhumane weapons”.


This UN press release, with its summaries of public statements made, and the full text of the new UNSC Resolution 1887 (including all the preambular paragraphs), can be read in full here.

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