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Ambassador Robert Wood: NPT PrepCom Cluster 3 – Specific Issue-Withdrawal
May 2, 2018

Second Session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2020 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons

Ambassador Robert Wood Permanent Representative of the United States to the Conference on Disarmament

Geneva, May 2, 2018

Mr. Chairman,

I would like to share our views on the issue of NPT Withdrawal.

As we review the implementation of the Treaty, it is important to consider the current challenges and how we can adapt and respond to preserve the benefits of the Treaty for all. The nonproliferation regime needs constant maintenance to respond to emerging challenges and lessons learned from current and past ones. Our ability to strengthen safeguards, export controls, and enforcement mechanisms has been critical to the resilience of the regime.

However, in one area, we still have not adopted common-sense principles or taken needed actions to address lessons learned from the DPRK’s announced withdrawal from the NPT more than fifteen years ago. Though North Korea’s case is unique and grave, it illustrates how withdrawal from the NPT can diminish the security benefits the remaining NPT Parties derive from the Treaty. Since the time of the DPRK’s withdrawal, three Review Conferences have been unable to reach consensus on ways to address this situation and discourage similar actionin the future, specifically, on what measures could be taken should a Party decide to withdrawfrom thetreaty.

To be clear, no one is proposing to amend the Treaty or to limit the legitimate right of withdrawal, a right that is woven into the fabric of the NPT. However, it is a basic principle of international law that a withdrawing State remains responsible for any unresolved noncompliance prior to its withdrawal. By vigorously enforcing this principle, and holding a withdrawing state fully accountable for any violations, States Party are not infringing on that state’s rights, but rather are protecting mutual interests, and enforcing standards to which a withdrawing state had agreed upon its original accession.

Another basic principle of international law is that a withdrawing state cannot misuse the fruits of its peaceful nuclear cooperation by escaping its obligations to other Parties. We rely on binding bilateral assurances of peaceful use and safeguards to help ensure that items we supply are used safely and securely for their intended purposes without misuse or diversion. These bilateral assurances reinforce the Party’s obligations under the Treaty and protect the collective interests of all Parties. To preserve those shared interests, we need to ensure that these assurances are enduring and vigorously enforced. A state’s withdrawal from the NPT does not vitiate such contractual obligations, and indeed illustrates the importance and need for provisions such as those that would require the return of items or material in order to prevent them from diversion into nuclear weapons work.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.