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13. Nuclear arms control and non-proliferation


I. Introduction

II. The 2005 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference

III. Iran and nuclear proliferation concerns

IV. North Korea’s nuclear programme and the Six-Party Talks

V. International cooperation to secure nuclear materials and facilities

VI. Conclusions


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In 2005 the global nuclear non-proliferation regime continued to face a number of serious challenges from both inside and outside the regime. The seventh five-yearly Review Conference of the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which forms the main legal and normative foundation of the regime, ended without any substantive decisions on key treaty-related issues. The review conference highlighted deep divisions in the states parties’ views about the nature of the main implementation and compliance challenges facing the NPT, particularly with respect to the question of what should be the relative balance between the treaty’s disarmament and non-proliferation obligations. The conference’s meagre outcome was widely seen as a lost opportunity to strengthen nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament efforts.


The controversy over the scope and nature of Iran’s nuclear programme continued to be the subject of high-level diplomacy in 2005. The negotiations between Iran and the E3 (France, Germany and the UK) on the future of Iran’s nuclear programme broke down after having made little progress. The main point of contention was Iran’s uranium enrichment programme, which Iran had voluntarily suspended in 2004 but announced that it would restart in 2005. The E3 insisted that Iran accept a complete and permanent cessation of the programme. Iran rejected this demand and reaffirmed its plans to develop a complete nuclear fuel cycle. In August 2005, Iran reactivated the uranium conversion facility located near Esfahan and subsequently declared that it would resume work on centrifuge enrichment. This led to calls from the E3 and the USA for Iran to be reported to the UN Security Council.


During 2005 the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) provided further detail about Iran’s failure to declare important nuclear activities as required by its comprehensive safeguards agreement with the agency. The IAEA reported that it had not found evidence of a secret Iranian military nuclear weapon programme but added that it was not in a position to give credible assurances that there were no undeclared nuclear activities taking place in the country.


Elsewhere, there were two new rounds held in the Six-Party Talks on North Korea’s nuclear weapon programme. A Joint Statement on the principles guiding the talks issued by the parties in September was a potential breakthrough. However, it quickly became apparent that the Joint Statement left unsettled a number of key questions and points of contention that had emerged in the talks. Little subsequent progress was made towards resolving the diplomatic impasse, against the background of a hardening of the positions of both North Koreo and the USA.


During 2005 international concern about the dangers of nuclear material falling into the hands of non-state actors, including terrorist groups, led to growing support for measures to protect nuclear material and facilities around the globe. Progress was made in implementing the US-funded Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI) programme, which is aimed at consolidating and expanding existing efforts to remove potential nuclear weapon-usable material from vulnerable sites. The parties to the 1980 Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material amended the convention to make it legally binding for the parties to protect nuclear facilities and material in domestic use, transport, and storage. The convention had previously only covered material in international transport. In September, the IAEA Board of Governors adopted a Nuclear Security Plan covering the period 2005–2009. The goal of the plan is to assist countries in upgrading physical protection of their nuclear material and facilities, detecting illicit nuclear trafficking across borders and improving control of radioactive sources.


Shannon N. Kile (USA) is a Senior Researcher with the SIPRI Non-proliferation and Export Controls Project.

Shannon N. Kile