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15. Nuclear arms control and non-proliferation



I. Introduction

II. Iran and nuclear proliferation concerns

III. North Korea’s nuclear programme

IV. Libya and proliferation concerns

V. Post-war findings about Iraq’s nuclear programme

VI. US–Russian nuclear arms control

VII. New US nuclear weapons

VIII. International cooperation to secure nuclear materials and facilities

IX. Conclusions


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The nuclear non-proliferation regime continued to face serious challenges in 2003. Its main legal foundation, the 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (Non-Proliferation Treaty, NPT), suffered a setback when North Korea became the first party to withdraw from the NPT and later announced that it had developed a nuclear weapon capability. In addition, evidence emerged that Iran had secretly pursued over several decades nuclear fuel cycle technologies with direct military applications, in contravention of its NPT-mandated safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Revelations in 2003 also highlighted the willingness of some states, or of individual scientists, to sell sensitive nuclear technologies and design expertise of the kind that Iran, Libya and North Korea are alleged to have purchased from Pakistan.


These developments led to proposals for repairing perceived shortcomings in the NPT. There was particular interest in revisiting one of its key provisions: the guarantee, contained in Article IV, that non-nuclear weapon states have an ‘inalienable right’ to import and develop materials and technologies for use in civil nuclear energy programmes. Some experts cited the North Korean and Iranian nuclear programmes as evidence that Article IV creates a fundamental weakness in the NPT, in that it allows states parties seeking to acquire nuclear weapons to legally put in place the fuel cycle facilities required to manufacturing these weapons under the cover of civil nuclear energy programmes. This perceived loophole led to interest in the idea of limiting uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing activities for civil nuclear programmes to a handful of fully transparent nuclear fuel cycle facilities, operating under multinational control and close IAEA supervision.


Iraq’s suspected weapons of mass destruction programme remained at the centre of international attention in the wake of the US-led military campaign to oust Saddam Hussein’s regime. With regard to nuclear weapons, the main question was whether Iraq had been engaged in proscribed nuclear-related activities, as alleged by pre-war US and British intelligence reports. The accuracy of these reports—and the process by which they had been put together—came under increasing critical scrutiny during the year as US inspection teams failed to find evidence of a reconstituted Iraqi nuclear weapons programme.


In December, Libya announced that it would verifiably abandon and verifiably dismantle, under international inspection, its WMD and ballistic missile programmes. Some observers perceive Libya’s announcement, following the removal of Saddam Hussein and the disclosure of Iran's nuclear programme, as a unique opportunity to work towards the goal of establishing a WMD-free zone in the Middle East.



Appendix 15A. World nuclear forces


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During 2003, the five states defined by the NPT as nuclear weapon states—the USA, Russia, the UK, France, China—continued to deploy more than 16 000 operational nuclear weapons. If all warheads are counted—deployed, spares, those in both active and inactive storage, and ‘pits’ (plutonium cores) held in reserve—the five nuclear-weapon states possessed an estimated total of 36 500 warheads. All of these states, with the exception of the UK, had significant nuclear weapon modernization programmes under way. In the USA, Congress voted to lift a decade-long ban on research work on new types of low yield and earth-penetrating nuclear weapons. Critics charged that this decision further weakened international efforts to delegitimize nuclear weapons. India and Pakistan, which along with Israel are de facto nuclear weapon states outside the NPT, were believed to be increasing the number of their nuclear warheads and developing new, longer-range ballistic missiles for delivering them.



Appendix 15B. Ballistic missile defence


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The US Defense Department accelerated R&D and procurement programmes to begin deploying by the end of 2004 an initial missile defence system to protect US territory. The system’s architecture will evolve as improved interceptors and sensors are developed. However, the DOD was criticized for rushing to deploy anti-missile systems before they had been adequately tested and shown to operate effectively. Elsewhere, in 2003, there were missile defence programmes under way in Israel and Russia; India and South Korea expressed interest in developing their own missile defences; and Japan announced an ambitious plan to develop a multi-layer missile defence system in cooperation with the USA.



Shannon N. Kile (United States) is a Researcher on the SIPRI Non-proliferation and Export Controls Project. He is the author of chapters in the SIPRI volume A Future Arms Control Agenda: Proceedings of Nobel Symposium 118, 1999 (2001) and SIPRI Research Report No. 7, The Future of the Defence Industries in Central and Eastern Europe (1994) and a co-author (with Adam Daniel Rotfeld) of a chapter in the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe OSCE Yearbook (1997). He has contributed to two SIPRI books on Russian security policy: Russia and Europe: The Emerging Security Agenda (1997) and Russia and Asia: The Emerging Security Agenda (1999) and is the author of the SIPRI Fact Sheet ‘Missile defence and the ABM Treaty: a status report’ (2001). He has contributed to the SIPRI Yearbook since 1995.


Hans M. Kristensen (Denmark) is a nuclear weapons policy analyst and a consultant to the nuclear programme of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). He is co-author of the NRDC Nuclear Notebook column in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. His recent publications include ‘The protection paradox’, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (Mar./Apr. 2004), ‘Preemptive posturing’, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (Sep./Oct. 2002), ‘The unruly hedge: cold war thinking at the Crawford summit’, Arms Control Today (Dec. 2001), The Matrix of Deterrence: US Strategic Command Force Structure Studies (Nautilus Institute, May 2001), and (with William Arkin) The Post Cold War SIOP and Nuclear Warfare Planning: A Glossary, Abbreviations, and Acronyms (National Resources Defense Council, 1999). He has contributed to the SIPRI Yearbook since 2001.

Shannon N. Kile