Factbox: What is the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

(BestGrowthStock) – Signatories of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) gather next week in New York to assess compliance with the pact and discuss ways to end loopholes that enabled Iran and North Korea to develop atomic fuel programs.

Here are some key facts about the treaty.

* PURPOSE OF THE NPT:

— The objective of the treaty, which took effect in 1970, is to halt the spread of nuclear weapons-making capability, guarantee the right of all members to develop nuclear energy for peaceful ends and — for the original five nuclear weapons powers — to phase out their arsenals.

— The treaty defines nuclear-armed states as those that “manufactured and exploded a nuclear weapon or other nuclear device prior to January 1, 1967”. They are the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia, which assumed rights and obligations from the former Soviet Union. Those five nations are the permanent members form the U.N. Security Council.

* SIGNATORIES:

— A total of 189 countries are party to the NPT. Nuclear states agree not to transfer nuclear weapons or to help non-nuclear states obtain them.

* NON-SIGNATORIES:

— Two non-signatories, India and Pakistan, developed nuclear weapons. Another, Israel, is widely assumed to have a nuclear arsenal but has never confirmed or denied it publicly.

* HOPES FOR 2010 NPT REVIEW CONFERENCE

— The 2010 NPT review conference runs May 3-28 at U.N. headquarters. Participants are hoping the United States and the other four nuclear-armed states will reaffirm disarmament commitments that they made in 2000 but which the previous U.S. administration repudiated at a 2005 review conference.

Participants also hope to tighten rules on uranium enrichment and other sensitive atomic technologies to make it hard for countries like Iran and North Korea to access them.

* IRAN:

— Iran has been a non-nuclear-weapon signatory to the NPT since 1970. It has a uranium enrichment program that it says is geared to providing energy so it can export more oil and gas. Western powers suspect Iran’s intends to develop the means to make atomic bombs because of its past failure to declare nuclear facilities to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and its continued restrictions on U.N. inspections. Iran is under U.N. sanctions for refusing to suspend the disputed activity, and the United States and other Western powers are pushing Russia and China to back a fourth round of punitive measures against Tehran.

* ESCAPE CLAUSE:

— The treaty is divided into 11 articles, including one that enables a state to withdraw “if it decides that extraordinary events … have jeopardized the supreme interests of its country.” A state must give three months’ notice to other treaty members and the U.N. Security Council.

* NORTH KOREA:

— North Korea signed in 1985 but left in 2003 after U.S. officials confronted it with evidence they said pointed to a covert enrichment program. Pyongyang also expelled inspectors from the IAEA.

— North Korea claimed it had conducted a nuclear test in May 2009, its second since 2006 and a move that was swiftly condemned worldwide and resulted in new U.N. punitive measures against Pyongyang, including a ban on all weapons exports from North Korea and most arms imports.

* INDEFINITE EXTENSION:

— At the 1995 review conference, the treaty was extended indefinitely at the behest of nuclear-armed states. Developing countries agreed to the extension after a commitment from the nuclear-armed states to step up disarmament, ease access to nuclear energy for development and seek a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East. Developing nations complain that these pledges have not been fully implemented.

* 13 STEPS

— At the 2000 NPT review conference, signatories agreed on 13 steps toward disarmament the nuclear-armed states should take. In 2005, the United States with the support of France made clear it did not consider itself committed to those steps. Diplomats hope that the five nuclear powers will renew their commitment to the agreed disarmament steps next month.

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Factbox: What is the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty