The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)
The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) is the cornerstone of the nuclear non-proliferation regime. The NPT entered into force in 1970 and Australia ratified the treaty in 1973. The only states not to have joined the NPT are India, Israel, Pakistan and the newly independent South Sudan. On 24 September 2009, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) underscored the importance of the NPT in the nuclear non-proliferation regime when it passed Resolution 1887, which call on all member states to comply fully with their obligations under the treaty, urge non-members to accede to the treaty and reinforce the right of states to nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
The Treaty and the nuclear non-proliferation safeguards system provided through the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) make a crucial contribution to regional and international peace and security. Overall, the NPT has been successful in limiting the spread of nuclear weapons.
The Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office (ASNO) acts as Australia's national safeguards authority responsible for the performance of Australia's safeguards and non-proliferation obligations and for facilitating IAEA safeguards activities in Australia.
Article VIII of the NPT provides that the Treaty be reviewed at five-yearly intervals. The primary objectives of Review Conferences are to assess developments since the previous conference, to address current challenges, and to identify areas for further progress. Australia has been an active and constructive participant in all NPT Review Conferences. At the last Review Conference held in New York in May 2010, States Parties agreed to a final document (‘Action Plan’) that included conclusions and recommendations for follow-on actions in the areas of nuclear disarmament, nuclear non-proliferation, peaceful uses of nuclear energy and the Middle East.
North Korea presents a key challenge to the NPT regime. The DPRK's announcements in 1993 and in 2003 that it had withdrawn from the NPT have led to ongoing uncertainty about its status. Following a series of ballistic missile tests on 5 July 2006 and a nuclear test on 9 October 2006, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) unanimously adopted Resolutions 1695 and 1718, which condemned the DPRK's actions and demanded the DPRK halt its missile programs. In response to North Korea's second nuclear test on 25 May 2009, the UNSC unanimously adopted Resolution 1874 which sent a clear and united signal from the international community that North Korea's actions were unacceptable. The UNSC and the international community also condemned North Korea's failed attempt on 13 April 2012 to launch a satellite using long-range missile technology.
The Australian Government has implemented the United Nations Security Council's trade and financial sanctions against North Korea into Australian law. All persons either having or considering business dealings in connection with North Korea should make themselves aware of the restrictions that apply to such dealings and seek independent legal advice, if required, before making commercial decisions.
Iran presents another challenge to the NPT regime: in 2003 the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) found Iran in breach of its safeguard obligations and has repeatedly confirmed since that it is unable to verify whether Iran's nuclear activities are exclusively peaceful. The UNSC has passed six resolutions against Iran: 1696, 1737, 1747, 1803, 1835 and 1929, of which four have imposed sanctions.
Relevant Australian legislation incorporates the United Nations Security Council's trade and financial sanctions against Iran. Australia has also imposed autonomous sanctions targeting Iran's proliferation sensitive nuclear and missile programs and Iran's efforts to contravene UNSC sanctions. All persons having business dealings in connection with Iran should make themselves aware of the restrictions that apply to such dealings.
Australia supports efforts by the five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany to engage Iran in a sustained process of dialogue with a view to bringing Iran into compliance with its international obligations.