Monday, 29 March 2021

How UK violates its nuclear non-proliferation obligations

Letter submitted to Morning Star newspaper: Since the publication of the so-called Integrated Defence, Security and Foreign policy review on 16 March, the Morning Star has published several feature articles and readers’ letters – many of which I agree with – analyzing the document, which included the politically dangerous and diplomatically destabilising announcement that the Ministry of Defence plans to increase the “ceiling” of available atomic warheads from the current 225 to 260. However, the letter from correspondent Alan Debenham of Taunton ( 25 March) contained a series of factual errors and contestable assertions. He claims, wrongly, that “all countries remain tied to the previously agreed nuclear non- proliferation treaty (NPT) of 1968.” India and Pakistan, plus Israel, each a nuclear weapons state, have never signed the treaty. Cuba told the UN General Assembly on 14 September last year, after years as a hold- out state, it would accede to the NPT, and submitted its articles of ratification to the treaty in Moscow on 4 November. North Korea did originally join the NPT in 1985, but announced its withdrawal - as any state is entitled to do so under treaty article 10, on 10 January 2003, justifiably citing non- compliance of the Article 6 nuclear disarmament obligation by the nuclear weapon state members. Mr Debenham also asserts that the NPT “bans all new nuclear bomb provisions and activities.” Would that it did! Article 5 of the NPT is still active, and unbelievably permits “peaceful nuclear explosions”, stating: “Each Party to the Treaty undertakes to take appropriate measures to ensure that, in accordance with this Treaty, under appropriate international observation and through appropriate international procedures, potential benefits from any peaceful applications of nuclear explosions will be made available to non-nuclear-weapon States Party to the Treaty on a non-discriminatory basis and that the charge to such Parties for the explosive devices used will be as low as possible and exclude any charge for research and development..” However, Mr Debenham is correct to suggest that nuclear warhead co-operation between the US and UK (involving the nuclear weapons laboratories at Los Alamos in New Mexico and AWE Aldermaston and Burghfield in Berkshire) is illegal. Article 1 of the NPT explicitly prohibits the “transfer to any recipient whatsoever nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices or control over such weapons or explosive devices directly, or indirectly…” ( emphasis added) My recent blog article “[Nuclear War-] headed for trouble” ( 25 March; shows up the utter hypocrisy of Defence Secretary Ben Wallace’s claim to MPs on 22 March that “we do not believe that the changes to the number of warheads in any way breach the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, and that advice is backed up by the Attorney General.” He subsequently told Labour MP Rachael Maskell in the same Q&A session on the Defence White Paper that “Governments do not publish the Attorney General’s advice.” How convenient!

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