Today, Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA) hailed the United Nations (U.N.) Security Council's unanimous passage of a resolution to deter nations from withdrawing from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and ensure nuclear materials remain secure. The United States-drafted resolution represents an important step forward in addressing the spread of nuclear weapons. In 2007, Congressman Schiff introduced bipartisan legislation in the House of Representative that called on the President to introduce a U.N. Resolution similar to the one adopted today.
Congressman Schiff's 2007 resolution (H. Con. Res. 228) encouraged the President to pursue a U.N. Security Council resolution that declares that withdrawal from the NPT requires the return of any internationally-obtained nuclear materials or technology. It also sought to prevent nations that violate and then withdraw from the Treaty from keeping nuclear materials or technology obtained through the Treaty.
"The NPT had become the shortest path to a nuclear weapon for unstable countries due to a dangerous loophole in the Treaty," said Schiff. "Countries could obtain nuclear assistance while being signatories to the NPT, and later violate and withdraw from the Treaty retaining their ill-gotten nuclear gains."
Today's special session was only the fifth time that the Security Council has met at the head-of-state summit level since the United Nations was founded, and President Obama was the first American President to preside over such a session. In a demonstration of the importance of the issue, the leaders of many of the world's most powerful countries attended the special session to voice their support for the measure. Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Britain, President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, President Dmitri A. Medvedev of Russia, and President Hu Jintao of China all attended the Security Council meeting.
The NPT has played an important role in reducing the number of nuclear nations. In the four decades since it was signed, only five additional nations have developed nuclear weapons and only four of those possess them now, far fewer than experts predicted at the time. However, the treaty has been under increasing strain due to rogue states that use the nuclear energy cooperation that the NPT promises to non-nuclear-weapon states as a stepping-stone to nuclear weapons.
By attaching a clear penalty, nations would be discouraged from using the NPT to obtain nuclear technology and simply "opting out" at the last moment. A few years ago, North Korea demonstrated that it was possible to use the NPT to obtain dual-use nuclear energy technology that allowed it to proceed most of the way down the path to nuclear weapons, before leaving the treaty and developing weapons in short order. Iran appears to be following the same route, enriching uranium that is nominally for use in nuclear reactors, but could easily be fed into a nuclear weapons program.