April 2019 Monthly Forecast

Posted 29 March 2019
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Non-Proliferation

Expected Council Action

In April, the Council will hold a briefing under the agenda item non-proliferation, focused on supporting the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) ahead of the 2020 review conference.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas is expected to chair the meeting. Briefings are expected from Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency Yukiya Amano and Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs Izumi Nakamitsu.

The Council may adopt an outcome during the meeting.

Background

The NPT was opened for signature in 1968 and entered into force in 1970. The treaty’s main purposes are the prevention of the spread of nuclear weapons, promotion of peaceful uses of nuclear energy and ultimately complete nuclear disarmament. With 191 parties, the NPT is regarded as the most-observed treaty on disarmament matters. Since its entry into force, the state parties to the NPT have held review conferences at five-year intervals to review the operation of the treaty and address other related issues. The treaty was initially set to expire after 25 years but was made open-ended by the states parties during the 1995 NPT review conference. The Security Council meeting in April will provide an opportunity for Council members to emphasise the importance of the non-proliferation regime and express their commitment to the treaty’s implementation.

The period since the 2015 NPT review conference has been marked by some significant developments on the non-proliferation front. Most notable were the decision of the US to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on Iran’s nuclear program and the intensified US-Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) diplomatic engagement on denuclearisation.

Although the US withdrew from the JCPOA, other parties to the agreement have remained committed to its implementation. So far, Iran has continued to implement and verify its nuclear-related commitments under the agreement. Following its withdrawal, the US imposed a series of economic sanctions on Iran and has hindered the ability of Iran to access international financial and oil markets. In January, the EU launched a special trade mechanism that would facilitate legitimate trade between the EU and Iran and circumvent the US sanctions. In the absence of economic benefits granted by the JCPOA, Iran has threatened that it would stop adhering to the agreement and would consider withdrawing from the NPT.

In 2017, the Council demonstrated unity in reacting to the increase in ballistic missile testing by the DPRK when it adopted a series of resolutions toughening the sanctions on the country. The tensions on the Korean peninsula have decreased significantly during 2018 in light of renewed inter-Korean and US-DPRK diplomatic efforts. US President Donald Trump and DPRK leader Kim Jong-un have held two summit-level meetings while Kim and Republic of Korea President Moon Jae-in have met three times. The DPRK denuclearisation talks reached an impasse during the February US-DPRK summit; Trump broke off the talks after Kim offered only to dismantle nuclear facilities in Yongbyon in exchange for lifting economic sanctions on the DPRK. This was followed by media reports showing satellite imagery suggesting that the DPRK has resumed activity at some of its missile launch sites and missile production sites.

In February, the US announced that it would withdraw from the 1987 US-Russia Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, citing Russia’s lack of compliance with the treaty. Subsequently, Russia said that it would no longer adhere to provisions of the treaty. The goal of the INF was to prohibit testing and deployment of land-based missiles with a range between 310 and 3,420 miles. The treaty will formally end in August following a six-month withdrawal period unless the US and Russia resolve outstanding issues.

While addressing a UN conference on disarmament in Geneva on 25 February, the Secretary-General expressed his concern over the breakdown of international arms control mechanisms. He called on the US and Russia to engage in efforts to preserve the INF treaty and also to extend the New START treaty (a US-Russia treaty on reduction of strategic nuclear weapons) ahead of its expiry in 2021. In May 2018, the Secretary-General unveiled his disarmament agenda, called “Securing Our Common Future”, which presents a set of practical measures on a range of disarmament issues, focusing on weapons of mass destruction, conventional weapons, and new battlefield technologies.

Council Dynamics

Council members are generally supportive of overall non-proliferation efforts. Council dynamics have varied, however, in specific cases and situations that the Council has discussed. Following its withdrawal from the JCPOA, the US has been isolated in the Council on this issue given that most other members as well as the Secretary-General share the view that the agreement should be preserved. The Council has been unanimous in its support of recent diplomatic efforts on denuclearisation of the DPRK. Council members seem to hold varied positions on how the Council should balance the use of sanctions in light of ongoing diplomatic efforts. Some members, in particular China and Russia, are becoming increasingly interested in considering some form of sanctions relief for the DPRK while the US and most other members oppose this. The 2018 use of a nerve agent in Salisbury has unveiled another dynamic in the Council, pitting the UK and its allies against Russia.

UN DOCUMENTS ON NON-PROLIFERATION

Security Council Resolutions
15 December 2016S/RES/2325 This was a resolution on the 1540 Committee.
20 July 2015S/RES/2231 This was a resolution that endorsed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran.
28 April 2004S/RES/1540 This resolution established the 1540 Committee and its mandate, affirmed that proliferation of nuclear weapons as well as the means of delivery constitutes a threat to international peace and security.
Security Council Meeting Records
26 September 2018S/PV.8362 This is a summit-level meeting on countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, chaired by US President Donald Trump.
6 September 2018S/PV.8343 This was an emergency session on the investigation of the Salisbury nerve agent attack.

Useful Additional Sources

Non-Proliferation Treaty

Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons