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Stronger, More Consistent Enforcement of Nonproliferation Treaty Needed, Expert Says

(Washington, DC--January 12, 2007) The current situation is "far from a good model" for maintaining the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and reducing the threat of nuclear weapons in the world, according to Henry D. Sokolski, Executive Director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center. Sokolski, who spoke to a RFE/RL-Radio Free Asia audience this week, criticised the inconsistent enforcement record of the NPT in regard to North Korea, Iran, and other countries, noting "If you don't follow the rules, you won't be sanctioned and you might even be rewarded."

In the case of Iran, Sokolski said, the United States years ago effectively "conceded the right [of Iran]" to a nuclear program -- even though this was the opposite of what should have happened under the NPT. He called the policy of tolerating an Iranian nuclear program as "unacceptable." "Talking is no substitute for action," Sokolski stressed, stating that the current sanctions, although "moving in the right direction," are still twenty years too late and "hardly action enough."

Sokolski said in the case of North Korea, which now has an operational nuclear weapons program, the nonproliferation effort was undermined by the lack of strict inspections and the absence of timely sanctions. "Now we will have to wait [the North Korean regime] out," Sokolski said, and "make sure that U.S. allies in the region are protected." Sokolski cautioned there is a danger of war if China "misreads" any U.S. effort in the region.

What allowed much of this to happen, Sokolski said, was the lack of clarity in what is expected from NPT signatories and even U.S. "strategic allies" when it comes to compliance with standards of nonproliferation. There must be a strict measure of what is "peaceful" and what is not, he added, and it should be applied consistently. Non-proliferation efforts may also be advanced by reducing the number of "pre-positioned" nuclear weapons, Sokolski said.

Sokolski suggested that one way to reduce proliferation is to apply an economic measure to evaluate whether a country needs a civilian nuclear program to produce energy. If nuclear power is not economically viable, a country should not pursue it -- or should be dissuaded from doing so. Sokolski said an effective "test" for whether the intentions of a state to acquire a nuclear power capacity is peaceful rests in this question -- if it is not economically viable, there is likely an ulterior motive.

Archived audio of this briefing can be heard in RealAudio and Windows Media formats.