Nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation

"Since the horrors of nuclear weapons were revealed, their elimination has been a high priority of the international community. And from the time of its inception, the United Nations has worked untiringly for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. The goal of a nuclear weapons free world is still a long way off. While there has been progress in disarmament, especially since the end of the cold war, tens of thousands of nuclear weapons remain in arsenals around the world, and there have been worrying indications that efforts are under way to develop new types of nuclear weapons. The continued existence of nuclear stockpiles leaves the shadow of nuclear war hanging over our world - particularly given the existence of clandestine networks dealing in nuclear materials and the prospect of terrorists with extreme ambitions gaining access to these materials."1
Kofi Annan, United Nations Secretary-General


Nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation have been priorities on the international peace and security agenda for a long time. Discussions and negotiations on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation both within and outside the United Nations have led to the conclusion of a number of bilateral, regional and multilateral agreements. Unilateral initiatives as well have been taken to cut down nuclear arsenals and reduce the risk of the outbreak of nuclear war and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons. Efforts have even led to the prohibition of nuclear weapons from certain environments and regions called nuclear-weapon-free zones (NWFZs). Finally, international norms have been established to prevent the proliferation and the testing of nuclear weapons.
At the bilateral level, the Russian Federation and the United States have signed a number of agreements concerning their nuclear arsenals. The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I), signed on 31 July 1991, provided for a reduction of their strategic arsenals to no more than 6,000 nuclear warheads each, over seven years. By December 2001, the parties had completed reductions to the level required under START I. The second Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START II), signed on 3 January 1993, would have further reduced the parties' strategic nuclear warheads to no more than 3,000 to 3,500 each. Further progress in the START process was linked to the Treaty on the Limitation of Anti-Ballistic Missile Systems (ABM), which, for decades, had been regarded and reaffirmed as the cornerstone of international stability and security. The United States withdrew from the ABM Treaty in June 2002. Subsequently, the Russian Federation declared that it was no longer bound by its obligation under the Treaty. A new strategic relationship established between the parties in 2002 superseded START II and led to the conclusion of the Treaty on Strategic Offensive Reductions (SORT), or the Moscow Treaty, which entered into force on 1 June 2003.
The 1970 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), was extended indefinitely at the 1995 Review and Extension Conference of the Parties to the Treaty. It is considered the cornerstone of the global nuclear non-proliferation regime and the essential foundation for nuclear disarmament. At the 2000 NPT Review Conference, NPT States parties adopted by consensus a Final Document containing numerous agreements and undertakings. Those measures aim to strengthen the implementation of the Treaty's provisions and achieve its universality as well as improving the effectiveness of its strengthened review process. The Preparatory Committee for the 2005 NPT Review Conference held its first session in 2002, its second in 2003 and its third in 2004. Throughout the review process, States parties reaffirmed that the NPT rested on three pillars - non-proliferation, disarmament and the peaceful use of nuclear energy. The safeguards system provided by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is an essential part of the non-proliferation regime and was bolstered by the 1997 Additional Protocol, which granted the Agency wider scope in inspecting nuclear facilities.
The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) was opened for signature on 24 September 1996, after more than 40 years of efforts by the international community to ban nuclear test explosions in all environments. Under its provisions, the Treaty will enter into force when the 44 States that possess nuclear power or research reactors listed in Annex 2 to the Treaty have ratified it.2 In 1999, 2001 and 2003 respectively, Conferences to Facilitate the Entry into Force of the CTBT were convened by the Secretary-General of the United Nations in his capacity as Depositary of the Treaty. The Conferences adopted Final Declarations which called upon the States which had not yet done so to sign and ratify the Treaty as soon as possible, especially those whose ratification was needed for its entry into force. Pending entry into force, States parties were called upon to maintain their moratoria on nuclear weapon test explosions or any other nuclear explosions.
The Conference on Disarmament (the Conference) has been unable to commence its substantive work since 1998 due to persistent divergences of positions with regard to priorities for disarmament negotiations. Despite the proposals and initiatives made by its Member States and the numerous consultations undertaken by its presidents to break the stalemate, the Conference again failed to reach agreement on a substantive programme of work.
This chapter deals with a wide range of issues relating to developments within the field of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation that occurred during 2004.

1Message at the Peace Memorial Ceremony, Hiroshima, 6 August 2004, available from
2At the end of 2004, 11 of the 44 States listed in Annex 2 to the Treaty had not yet ratified it.