Your report on the foreign secretary’s wide-ranging speech to the annual Chatham House diplomatic conference stressed Boris Johnson’s belief in the multilateral global order, as imposed by the international community, in controlling the threat from nuclear weapons. (“Johnson backs push for North Korean dialogue,” The Guardian, 23 October 2017; https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/oct/23/boris-johnson-backs-diplomatic-solution-to-north-korea-crisis
The foreign secretary picked out the 1968 nuclear non proliferation treaty (NPT) - jointly drafted by the UK with the US and Soviet Union, and for which all three ( with Russia replacing the Soviet Union) remain as depositary states -as the key multilateral agreement.
Mr Johnson however only concentrated on one dimension of nuclear weapons proliferations, the horizontal spread of these WMDs to new states. His foreign office departmental speech writers must know, however, that the NPT is a bargain between the nuclear haves ( the UN security council permanent five, ie the above three states, plus France and China) committed to “negotiating nuclear disarmament in good faith and at an early date” ( under NPT article 6) and the nuclear have nots pledging to remain without nuclear WMDs, and accepting verification of their pledge through independent international inspections.
Yet Mr Johnson made the very dubious assertion to the Chatham House:
“We are one of the handful specifically recognised by the NPT to possess such dreadful weapons, and we do so not just in the name of our own security but – via NATO – for the protection of dozens of our allies.” (https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/foreign-secretary-speech-at-chatham-house-london-conference-2017)
And he justified continuous nuclear WMD possession by the UK thus
“And by holding that stockpile play our part in deterring the ambitions of rogue states...” concluding “The NPT is one of the great diplomatic achievements of the last century. It has stood the test of time.” adding” It is the job of our generation now to preserve that agreement, and British diplomacy will be at the forefront of the endeavour.”
This is gross hypocrisy, or as Boris is might put it clever chutzpah: Papers I unearthed at the National Archives show that on 23 January 1968, Fred ( later Lord) Mulley, as the UK's disarmament minister, addressed a UN disarmament assembly in Geneva, explaining why nations should sign up to the newly negotiated NPT, he told the ministerial delegations:
"As I have made clear in previous speeches, my government accepts the obligation to participate fully in the negotiations required by [NPT] Article 6 and it is our desire that these negotiations should begin as soon as possible and should produce speedy and successful results. There is no excuse now for allowing a long delay to follow the signing of this treaty."
A few days afterwards, on 30 January 1968, and the NPT was presented to the cabinet for its endorsement. A supportive foreign office memo proudly stated: "a lot of the thinking behind the treaty, and some of the language, originally came from us."
But instead of entering into multilateral negotiations to fulfil our commitments to the NPT, as Mulley had promised, successive governments have upgraded UK nuclear WMDs and not a single warhead has been withdrawn from deployment as a result of multilateral negotiations.
Time for a u-turn in UK diplomacy and implementation of this near fifty year unfulfilled NPT nuclear disarmament pledge.