Abolition 2000 is a worldwide network working for a global treaty to eliminate nuclear weapons.
Article by the Foreign Ministers of Germany and Norway,
Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Jonas Gahr-Støre
published on Friday, November 10, 2006
Unofficial English version

The security situation in Europe has changed dramatically over the last 20 years. The threat of nuclear annihilation, which dominated strategic thinking throughout the Cold War, has abated - fortunately. Unfortunately, the momentum for arms control and disarmament seems to have followed suit, and we are faced with a different – more complex and less predictable – set of challenges to the international non-proliferation and disarmament regime

The nuclear test by North Korea is certainly one of the most pressing challenges we face today. The North Korean policy of brinkmanship now combined with a concrete nuclear threat, taking its own population and the whole region as a hostage, cannot be tolerated. The international reaction is encouragingly united. The North Korean nuclear test should serve as a wake-up call and prompt us to review our basic policies to deal with the challenge of proliferation and today’s security risks overall.

The nuclear test made once more clear, that the end of the Cold War was not the end of history. Instead, we are today faced with a different and in many ways more complex and less predictable security situation: The conflict potential at a regional level has increased dramatically not least due to the emergence of ethnic, religious and national tensions and disputes which previously could not escalate into armed conflicts because of the predominant East-West confrontation. A matter of particular concern, indeed a hallmark of the more uncertain security environment that we find ourselves in, is the continuing proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery. Not only clear cases like the nuclear test in North Korea, but also the ambitious nuclear programme in Iran give rise to growing concerns. And finally the insidious and heinous terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 have demonstrated a new dimension of threat and have also increased the awareness of the risk of non-state actors gaining access to weapons of mass destruction, related materials and means of delivery.

In light of these threats, we are gravely concerned about the current state of the nuclear non-proliferation regime. Specific proliferation concerns remain unresolved. Negotiations to halt the production of nuclear weapons material still elude us. The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty seems at this juncture unlikely to enter into force, albeit that the North Korean nuclear test has demonstrated its entry into force is overdue. Recent gatherings of world leaders have failed to yield any consensus on the way ahead.

Our ability to reinvigorate the non-proliferation regime – on the basis of shared norms and the rule of law - will be crucial for our security and international cooperation in this post- Cold War era.

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is our indispensable basis for addressing the dangers of nuclear proliferation. By signing up to NPT, the international community struck a major bargain: Non-nuclear weapon states renounced the acquisition and possession of nuclear weapons in return for the nuclear weapon states commitment to nuclear disarmament. This commitment is unequivocal. This is a popular bargain; the Non- Proliferation Treaty has more signatories than any international treaty other than the UN Charter. This fundamental bargain must not be allowed to erode. Non-proliferation and disarmament are complementary, not separate, goals.

Norway and Germany share a common understanding of the value of a treaty based, transparent and verifiable system of disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation. Our governments advocate a double track approach where we work jointly to enhance compliance with non-proliferation obligations, and to generate a new momentum for nuclear disarmament.

This double track approach implies an action agenda, which does justice to and provides for the pursuit in parallel – however without artificial linkages - of both tracks. Thus Norway and Germany are committed to work for diplomatic solutions to the pressing regional proliferation risks, in particular Iran and North Korea. We must improve international verification in order to enhance the detectability of significant violations under the NPT. We need to prevent any misuse of civilian nuclear programmes for military ends; in this regard we will have to address the risks posed by the nuclear fuel cycle in such a way that we arrive at an effective solution without, however, creating new dividing lines among he states who have signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty. We will also work for a new momentum on nuclear disarmament. In particular we need to overcome the stalemate in international endeavours towards that end. We must without delay start negotiating a treaty prohibiting any further production of fissile material for military use. The entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) must – against the backdrop of the North Korean nuclear test – again become a key priority on the international agenda; the treaty is important for the disarmament agenda. Finally, we encourage the nuclear weapons states, in particular Russia and the United States, to exercise leadership and commit to further negotiations on strategic nuclear weapons. We believe such negotiations could result in a follow-on agreement replacing the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I), which expires in 2009. And we believe that it is time for an incremental arms control approach to non-strategic nuclear weapons, a category of nuclear weapons which aree not yet the subject of any arms control or disarmament agreement.

Building on this Norway and Germany are willing and ready to undertake every effort to make the Non-Proliferation Treaty review process, which begins next year, a success. It is up to the international community to make the North Corean test expolsion a further and perhaps decisive step on the road of erosion of the Treaty or the signal for a firm signal of the necessary renaissance of a strong and credible non-proliferation consensus.

These challenges are daunting, but our governments are firmly committed to addressing them together.