Taming the Nuclear Dragon

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The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) of 1970, signed by 190 countries, was intended to halt the spread of nuclear weapons and ultimately create a bomb-free world. It will come up for review next year and it is in serious danger of unraveling.

North Korea has done a masterful job of stalling the reversal of its weapons program, and Iran steadfastly refuses to allow inspectors into its nuclear facilities. Pakistan celebrated its 1998 nuclear test as a demonstration of an “Islamic Bomb,” a frightening prospect given the current violence in Gaza. Never has nuclear proliferation — and the treaty that for nearly four decades has kept it in check — been a more serious issue on the world agenda.

The most important element of the NPT is the promise by nations without nuclear weapons not to develop them. In exchange, they receive assistance in the peaceful uses of nuclear technology for energy, medicine and industry. The existing nuclear states — the United States, the Soviet Union, Great Britain, France and China — agreed to “general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.” Only India, Israel and Pakistan declined to participate. (North Korea signed, but then withdrew in 2003 and conducted a nuclear test in 2006.) Many countries are now capable of creating their own bombs and some believe that they need them to deter attacks from neighbors.



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