- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 11, 2003

Lyndon B. Johnson was president July 1, 1968, when the United States, Britain, the Soviet Union and 59 other countries signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, whose main goal was to stop the spread of nuclear weapons.
Within days, the Texas Democrat sought U.S. Senate ratification of the treaty. But as a result of the ongoing Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, it was not until more than a year later, when Republican Richard Nixon was president, that the Senate ratified the treaty.
The treaty took effect in March 1970, when this country's official ratification was deposited with the British, Russian and U.S. governments, as terms of the treaty require.
Today, the treaty is the most widely accepted arms-control agreement in the world. One hundred eighty-eight nations have signed the pact, which bars nuclear states from transferring atomic weapons to other countries and blocks nonnuclear states from seeking such weapons.
"The NPT has been a critical part of the nonproliferation regime, and nonproliferation has been extremely important in stopping the spread of nuclear weapons," Paul Kerr, a research analyst with the Arms Control Association, said yesterday in an interview.
Mr. Kerr acknowledged that the treaty "has not been perfect," pointing out that three countries known to have nuclear weapons Israel, India and Pakistan have not signed it.
There had been four holdouts until late last year. That changed in early November, when Cuba signed onto the pact. The NPT is monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), a United Nations watchdog group.
Right now, world attention is focused on North Korea, a communist nation with nuclear capability, which signed the treaty in 1985. However, Pyongyang says it is pulling out. In a statement yesterday, North Korea asserted "freedom from the binding force" of the NPT and the IAEA.
North Korea went on to say it has "no intention to produce nuclear weapons." It said its nuclear activities "at this stage will be confined to peaceful purposes, such as production of electricity." U.S. officials doubt the veracity of that statement.
Countries that sign the NPT agree to the following key provisions:
Any nuclear state must "not transfer to any recipient whatsoever nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices or control over such weapons directly or indirectly." It also must not assist any nonnuclear state in manufacturing or acquiring such weapons.
Nonnuclear weapons states that are a party to the treaty must not seek or accept such weapons or explosives from another country.
"Nothing in this treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of all the parties to the treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. All parties to the treaty have the right to the possible exchange of equipment, materials, and scientific and technological information for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy."
Each party that signs the treaty has the "right to withdraw if it decides that extraordinary events, related to the subject matter of this treaty, have jeopardized the supreme interests of its country." A signer of the treaty that decides to withdraw "shall give notice of its withdrawal to all other parties to the treaty and to the United Nations Security Council three months in advance."
Mr. Kerr said North Korea has been a troublesome NPT signatory. "After they signed, they couldn't account for spent fuel from reactors," and it was believed Pyongyang was using them for nuclear weapons, he said.
In 1993, North Korea announced it was withdrawing from the treaty. But it reconsidered "with one day remaining" before the three-month notice period had expired, said Steve LaMontagne, senior analyst for the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.
This time North Korea is laying claim to an immediate withdrawal. "Some contend that's illegal but there's really little we can do to prevent North Korea from a de facto withdrawal," whether now or later, Mr. LaMontagne said.

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