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ICNND keynote speech
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2009.06.09   6177 
Keynote Address:

“Nuclear Non-proliferation Priorities”

Han Sung-Joo
Professor Emeritus, Korea University
Former Prime Minister of the Republic of Korea

I am very happy to be here to give this address to such a distinguished group of scholars and policymakers who work on disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation issues.

To the honorable co-chairs of this commission, Mr. Gareth Evans and Ms. Yoriko Kawaguchi, and to the regional hosts of this meeting I thank you for the invitation to speak and for your hospitality.

I am also pleased to note that we are gathered here today amidst rising expectations in the international community for progress on the issues of disarmament and non-proliferation. The third and last session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2010 NPT Review Conference two weeks ago agreed on the substantive agenda and timeframe, laying the foundation for a successful Review Conference next year. This is quite a positive sign, at least compared to the 2005 Review Conference where the States Parties had to gather in New York without even having an agreed upon agenda.

Furthermore, some new initiatives, such as the five-point proposal for nuclear disarmament introduced by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, as well as the vision for “a world free of nuclear weapons” offered by US President Obama, have intensified the disarmament debate on a global scale.

It is also encouraging to see new policies developing in nuclear weapons states. Many are heartened by the commitments of the US and Russian Presidents, as set out in their Joint Statement of April 1, to fulfill their obligations under the NPT by concluding an agreement to succeed the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty I (START I) by the end of this year. Going one step further, President Obama’s Prague speech suggested specific actions towards achieving a global nuclear zero target.

However, while there seems to be a better prospect for the future, we must first deal with the challenges confronting us today. The NPT is faced with dire and unprecedented challenges to each of the three pillars: nuclear non-proliferation, disarmament, and peaceful uses of nuclear energy. In terms of peaceful utilization, the advent of the so-called ‘nuclear renaissance’ requires the NPT regime to forge a solution that will meet both increasing demands for nuclear energy and non-proliferation challenges. As for nuclear disarmament, notwithstanding the progress so far and some recent initiatives mentioned above, there is a deep perception gap between nuclear weapon states (NWS) and non-nuclear weapon states (NNWS) on the implementation of Article VI (nuclear disarmament), including the issue of vertical proliferation.

The NPT’s most serious challenge may be in the area of non-proliferation. The DPRK and Iranian nuclear issues pose a pressing, fundamental question of how the NPT should tackle threats to the very foundation of this non-proliferation pillar. No longer limited only to state-to-state level interactions, the emergence of an international black-market for the procurement of nuclear materials and technology could easily undermine the credibility of the Treaty, as seen in the A.Q. Khan case. Also, the growing threat of nuclear terrorism around the world urges us to draw up a reinforced non-proliferation regime.

Then, how can we tide over the current challenges and preserve the efficacy and integrity of the NPT? What should be our non-proliferation priorities? There are three top priorities I would like to suggest: strengthening the NPT-based non-proliferation regime, formulating an early resolution for the pending non-compliance issues, and creating multilateral approaches to the nuclear fuel cycle.

Strengthening the NPT-based non-proliferation regime

I believe strengthening the NPT-based non-proliferation regime is the most effective deterrent to the current pressing challenges. The regime should be buttressed by various creative tools that have been developed so far. If I may highlight some feasible measures:

- First, the IAEA safeguards system, the watchdog of global nuclear non-proliferation, should be further reinforced. The Agency’s institutional and technical ability to detect non-compliance makes it the first line of defense against proliferation. I therefore stress the importance of the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement and the Additional Protocol. In particular, we should support the universalization of the Additional Protocol, which would greatly enhance the IAEA’s inspection and verification capabilities, and will increase confidence in the States Parties’ compliance of the NPT obligations.

- Second, I firmly believe that an effective nuclear non-proliferation strategy must be finely balanced with efforts for nuclear disarmament. Thus, priority should be given to an early entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and the commencement of negotiations for a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT). In this respect, President Obama’s recent call for CTBT ratification by the US Government is encouraging. The international community must join forces to persuade those who have not yet ratified the Treaty to do so as soon as possible.

- Third, we need to squarely deal with the misuse of Article X (Withdrawal) of the NPT, especially following the DPRK’s announcement of its withdrawal. With the 2010 NPT Review Conference just a year away, I believe it is high time for us to consider an effective and collective response mechanism to a States Party withdrawal from the Treaty. If determined proliferators are allowed to leave the Treaty with the necessary materials and technologies to manufacture nuclear weapons that they have acquired under the cover of peaceful nuclear activities guaranteed by the Treaty, the NPT’s integrity cannot but be seriously undermined.

Early resolution of pending non-compliance cases

The pending non-compliance cases, namely the DPRK and Iranian nuclear issues, should be resolved as soon as possible. Let me just focus on the DPRK nuclear issue for the relevance with this regional meeting. It runs the risk of being the first case where nuclear weapons have been developed within the framework of the NPT. It could also be the first-ever case of a member state withdrawing from the NPT after making use of all the privileges and benefits under the Treaty. As such, the NPT’s approach toward the North Korean nuclear issue will be an important test case for the future of the non-proliferation regime

Since the outbreak of the second DPRK nuclear crisis in 2002, strenuous efforts have been made to achieve the verifiable denuclearization of North Korea through the Six-Party Talks. In 2005, the Six Parties adopted a Joint Statement which presented the basic framework for the peaceful resolution of this problem. In 2007, they agreed on specific measures for the implementation of the Joint Statement.

Mainly due to the lack of cooperation from the North, the Six-Party Talks became stalled again, with the pending issue being the completion of the second phase of denuclearization. In particular, the parties have yet to agree on a Six-Party verification mechanism and embark on the third phase in which North Korea will abandon all nuclear programs in accordance with the 2005 Joint Statement.

Most recently in defiance of these efforts, however, the DPRK carried out a rocket launch last month in contravention of UN Security Council Resolution 1718, and further threatened to take “measures that will include nuclear tests and test-firing of intercontinental ballistic missiles.” Indeed, the DPRK has followed up on its threats by expelling IAEA and US monitoring personnel from Yongbyon and now claims to have resumed reprocessing.

In stark contrast to Pyongyang’s actions and statements which have proceeded to worsen the situation, the international community has demonstrated its strong support for the peaceful resolution of the DPRK nuclear issue through the Six-Party Talks by unanimously adopting the Security Council Presidential Statement on April 13. Furthermore, the Five Parties are continuing diplomatic efforts to promptly resume the Six-Party Talks.

It seems that we still have a long way to go with this issue. Keeping up with our efforts, we should not forget that the methods we use to solve the North Korean issue will have lasting implications for the future of the nuclear non-proliferation regime.

Multilateral approaches to the nuclear fuel cycle.

As an era of nuclear renaissance unfolds, many countries are attaching greater importance to the right to develop peaceful uses of nuclear energy. This right is particularly instrumental in sustainable socio-economic development of developing countries. At the same time, there should be effective safeguards against the potential misuse of this right. For my country, nuclear energy has been vital to our economic growth during the several past decades. Nuclear energy currently provides 40 percent of our electricity needs, and this is projected to increase up to 60 percent by 2030.

As part of the efforts to accommodate both non-proliferation and peaceful utilization, multilateral approaches to the nuclear fuel cycle have been suggested. A guaranteed and sustainable supply of nuclear fuel through an international mechanism may discourage states in need of peaceful nuclear energy from pursuing their own uranium enrichment technology. Such an approach should be based on objective and fair criteria, and should not be implemented in a way that denies or limits the legitimate right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy. It would also serve its purpose better as a complement to, and back up of, the existing market, than as a replacement.


For now, there seems to be no viable alternative to the NPT regime. Thus, the conclusion we should naturally draw is that we must seek to strengthen and create measures that support the NPT regime. Therefore, we must carefully consider how to overcome the imminent challenges and reinforce the NPT-centered non-proliferation regime. One promising factor is the new US administration’s clear willingness to be more forthcoming on issues of disarmament and non-proliferation. This is surely providing fresh momentum for the success of the upcoming 2010 NPT Review Conference as well as for our work in the ICNND. Given our imperative mission to help stop the spread of nuclear weapons and to strive for a world with less nuclear weapons threats, the 2010 Review Conference should send a clear message to the world that the NPT is still a robust cornerstone of the global non-proliferation regime. I believe that three priority areas that I outlined today will be a great starting point for increased action and dialogue. For this, we need to pool our collective wisdom not to let go of this critical opportunity. As U.S. President John F. Kennedy once said “there are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction.” With the ever increasing complexity of our world today and the growing threats stemming from disarmament and non-proliferation issues, we cannot afford to be inactive on these problems, now or in the future. Thank you.
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