Third session of Preparatory Committee for 2020 NPT Review Conference opens in New York

(by Junji Akechi, Staff Writer)

NEW YORK—On April 29, the third session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2020 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference opened at United Nations headquarters in New York. Amid rising tensions between the United States and Russia, and deepening divisions among NPT member nations over the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, representatives from about 190 countries that are part of the NPT regime will seek a way forward to advance efforts for nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation. Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui and Hiroshima Governor Hidehiko Yuzaki have come to New York as well to convey a message from the citizens of the A-bombed city who are calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons.

The session will continue until May 10. On the first day, overseen by Syed Mohamad Hasrin from Malaysia, the chair of the session, there will be a general debate where the delegates from the participating nations are able to voice their opinions. Kiyoto Tsuji, the Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, will also speak at this time. During the run of the session, there will be discussions on particular themes that include nuclear disarmament, nuclear non-proliferation, and the peaceful use of nuclear energy, which are the three pillars of the NPT. On the final day, the participants will aim to adopt recommendations for the 2020 NPT Review Conference.

The previous NPT Review Conference, which took place in 2015, collapsed after it was unable to adopt a final statement due to disagreements over ways to move forward with the abolition of nuclear weapons, which included banning nuclear weapons and the 1995 resolution on the the Middle East. If the conference fails again next year, there is the possibility that the overall NPT structure, which will then be marking the 50th anniversary of its effectuation, could be badly undermined.

In addition, the Review Conference in 2020 will be the first such gathering to take place since the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was adopted at the United Nations in 2017. Compared to the pro-treaty nations which emphasize the inhumane nature of nuclear arms, the nuclear powers have taken a hardline stance against this treaty. Thus, it is unclear whether they will show any willingness to compromise. The dialogue pursued between the nuclear-armed nations, like discussions between the United States and Russia or the United States and China, will make the Preparatory Committee an important test for what is to come in 2020. It will also test Japan’s position, which relies on the U.S. nuclear umbrella for its security while calling itself the world’s “only A-bombed nation.”


Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT)
A treaty which was enacted in 1970, with the current participation of about 190 nations. While it permits certain nations to possess nuclear weapons — namely, the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, and China — these nations are also obliged, under the treaty, to engage in negotiations for nuclear disarmament. The NPT prohibits other nations from possessing nuclear arms but allows them access to the peaceful use of nuclear energy. The de-facto nuclear nations of Israel, India, and Pakistan have not joined the treaty. North Korea announced its withdrawal from the treaty in 2003. In order to monitor the state of the NPT regime, the NPT Review Conference is held every five years. In 2005, the conference could not reach agreement due to differences between the nuclear weapon states and non-nuclear weapon states. In 2010, the conference participants unanimously adopted the final statement. But the last conference, in 2015, again broke down without an agreement. Preparatory meetings for the NPT Review Conference are held annually in the three years leading up to the conference. This is the last session of the Preparatory Committee prior to the next NPT Review Conference in 2020.

(Originally published on April 30, 2019)