The Non-Proliferation Treaty: Its Establishment, Issues, and Current Status

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The Non-Proliferation Treaty: Its establishment, Issues, and Current Status On March 21, 1963, President John Kennedy warned in a press conference, “I see the possibility in the 1970s of the president of the United States having to face a world in which 15 or 20 or 25 nations may have nuclear weapons. I regard that as the greatest possible danger and hazard.” Kennedy made this statement a month after a secret Department of Defense memorandum assessed that eight countries: Canada, China, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Sweden, and West Germany would likely have the ability to produce nuclear weapons within the next 10 years after 1963. It was further assessed that beyond those 10 years, the future costs of nuclear weapons programs would decrease and provide way for several more states to pursue nuclear weapons, especially if unrestricted testing continued. Fear of the spread of nuclear weapons to vast nation states and superpowers including their military and ideological allies is what urged the creation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Signed on July 1, 1968 and actually implemented on March 5, 1970, the NPT is a result of a compilation of efforts at enforcing international non-proliferation. With President Dwight D. Eisenhower calling for a new international agency to share nuclear materials and information for peaceful purposes with other countries in his “Atoms for Peace” address to the UN General Assembly on December 1953, the way was made for the Non-Proliferation Treaty to come into existence when the UN established The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on July 29, 1957 as result of negotiations sparked from Eisenhower’s proposal. President Dwight Eisenhower proposed to the UN General Assembly the negotiation of a treaty that would seek to control nuclear activities around the world and prevent, if possible, the spread of nuclear weapons to additional countries. However, President Eisenhower’s speech to the UN General Assembly came after the failure of earlier U.S. nonproliferation efforts. When the United States stood as the only true nuclear power in the world at the end of World War II, President Harry Truman proposed to destroy the U.S. nuclear arsenal if other countries would agree not to acquire nuclear weapons and would permit inspections to verify that agreement. This proposal was presented as the Baruch Plan in 1946 and implied that the United States turn over control of all its enriched uranium, including that in any nuclear weapons it had, to a new UN body over which the United States and the other permanent members of the Security Council would have a veto. In addition to already seeking its own nuclear weapons, the Soviets rejected this plan on the grounds that the United Nations was dominated by the United States and its allies in Western Europe. Therefore, the Soviets argued it could not be trusted to exercise authority over atomic weaponry in a fair manner. They proposed that America eliminate its nuclear weapons before considering proposals for a system of controls and inspections. On the other hand, the United States, would not surrender its weapons to the agency until inspectors were on duty in the Soviet Union and in other countries with nuclear potential (Bellany 1985). With the Baruch Plan not going as planned, the U.S. Congress enacted the 1946 Atomic Energy Act which encompassed provisions designed to keep nuclear technology secret from other countries but then was amended to authorize nuclear assistance to others alike the IAEA which was created to provide both assistance and inspectors for peaceful nuclear activities after Eisenhower proposed providing assistance to other countries in the peaceful uses of atomic energy. The United States, followed by the Soviet Union, France, and others began providing research reactors that used weapons-usable highly enriched uranium to non-nuclear-weapon states around the world. These transfers and the training that accompanied the reactors...
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