Nuclear Disarmament and Non-proliferation

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Non-proliferation refers to the avoidance of spread of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery.  Notable weapons of mass destruction include nuclear, chemical and biological. There are two types of nuclear proliferation namely horizontal and vertical whereby horizontal refers to the spread of weapons in countries that do not at present have nuclear weapons while vertical refers to the increase in the number of weapons in a state currently possessing the weapon. Disarmament on the other hand refers to the total elimination of weapons of mass destruction by preventing production, development, and use of all such weapons.  Joyner (58) asserts that nuclear weapons may be delivered through a number systems which may include but are not limited to ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, artillery, rockets, submarines, and aircraft. Nuclear weapons and their spread across the globe has been a sensitive and controversial issue globally.

There have been a number of international initiatives to prevent proliferation of nuclear weapons and ultimately their total elimination.  Nuclear disarmament and non proliferation has become an important issue owing to a number of reasons. First Nuclear weapons are considered the most inhumane of weapons ever envisaged in the history of mankind. The threat posed by nuclear weapons is so much feared to the extent that it is only compared to the problem posed by climate change in terms of its immediate impact.  Furthermore nuclear weapons are perceived to have a capacity of making life extinct in the entire planet (Krieger). Nuclear disarmament is also considered a priority because there is growing fear that proliferation would result in an arms race. Additionally terrorist groups may want to acquire nuclear weapons to advance their interest.  According to Ungerer (96) Non-proliferation of nuclear weapons has to be taken seriously because even though the states possessing them may not wish to use them presently, they may end up using them by accident, poor design and or miscalculation.

It is perceived that there are at least 23,000 nuclear warheads in the world whose blast capacity is estimated at 150000Hiroshima bombs. Of the total global nuclear warheads United States and Russia alone possess 22,000 (“Status of World”). The remaining 1,000 warheads are in possession of other world major powers such as France, China, United Kingdom, India, Israel, and Pakistan.  At least 50 percent of the total global warheads are operationally deployed with the US and Russia having the highest number at 2000 (Evans).  A number of historical efforts have been made for disarmament and these include the League of Nations convention which called for universal reduction of weapons, and the Versailles Treaty which subjected Germany to disarmament. United Nations Charter does not speak directly about disarmament but urges the Security Council to maintain Peace & Security. Key among the UN Disarmament machinery include General Assembly First Committee,   Conference on Disarmament, UN Disarmament Commission, Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters, UN Institute for Disarmament Research and the Un department for Disarmament Affairs.  

The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) is one of the biggest initiatives that have been made to enhance disarmament (“Nuclear Non-prolif”). The treaty was passed on June 12 1968 and was ratified by 62 countries including three depository governments (US, USSR and UK) (“International Conventions”).  However the treaty entered into force in 1970 and it brought with it a lot of provisions that touched on the interest of Nuclear Weapons states (NWS) and the Non nuclear Weapons states (NNWS).  Key among the provisions required all NWS to retain their nuclear arsenals, and not transfer or help NNWS acquire, control or manufacture nuclear weapons (“Kimball”).  NNWS on the other hand were not required to build posses or acquire nuclear weapons, to research, produce and use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and accept safeguards on all their nuclear activities (UNOD).

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