Withdrawal from the NPT

North Korea’s announcement that it intended to withdraw from the NPT on 10 January 2003 sparked debate on withdrawal from the Treaty and its consequences, as well as on how to interpret the modalities set out in Article X of the NPT.

“Each Party shall in exercising its national sovereignty have the right to withdraw from the Treaty if it decides that extraordinary events, related to the subject matter of this Treaty, have jeopardized the supreme interests of its country. It shall give notice of such withdrawal to all other Parties to the Treaty and to the United Nations Security Council three months in advance. Such notice shall include a statement of the extraordinary events it regards as having jeopardized its supreme interests.”

NPT, Article X, Paragraph 1

Withdrawal from the NPT leads to the termination of the IAEA Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement.

France took part in this debate and put forward suggestions in the spring of 2004 on the consequences of withdrawal, particularly with regard to violations committed while the State in question was still party to the Treaty. It supports the ideas set out in the paper proposed by the United States and Russia. The EU also made a contribution by publishing a detailed working document during the 2007 Preparatory Committee for the 2010 NPT Review Conference 1.

France, with its European partners, believes it essential that the issue of the consequences of withdrawal be dealt with within the framework of the current NPT review cycle. It would not be acceptable for a State, after having benefited from the provisions and cooperation set out in Article IV to acquire nuclear material, facilities and technology, to then withdraw from the Treaty and use them for military purposes.

The right granted in Article X is not being challenged. The aim is to point out the consequences of withdrawal and to remind a number of principles to help guide the international community’s response in the event a withdrawal is announced :

- Principle whereby a State remains liable internationally for NPT violations committed before withdrawal ;

- Affirmation that a premeditated and prepared decision to withdraw with the sole purpose of conducting a military nuclear programme is a violation of the spirit of the Treaty ;

- Reminder of the role of the United Nations Security Council in maintaining international peace and security, and affirmation that withdrawal from the Treaty may constitute a threat to international peace and security. Review by the Security Council of any withdrawal from the Treaty of which it has been notified ;

- Affirmation, without prejudice to any other measure decided on by the United Nations Security Council, that a State withdrawing from the Treaty must no longer use the nuclear material, facilities, equipment or technology obtained from a third party prior to its withdrawal ; that such nuclear material, facilities and equipment must be returned to the supplier State, frozen or dismantled, under IAEA supervision ;

- Benefits of including a clause banning the use of previously transferred nuclear material, facilities, equipment and technology in the event of withdrawal from the NPT in agreements between governments framing the transfer of sensitive nuclear goods ;

- Desire that the possibility be studied for the IAEA to continue to apply safeguards and, where necessary, certain provisions of the Additional Protocol for an indefinite period after withdrawal, thereby ensuring international monitoring of nuclear material, facilities, equipment and technology initially developed with a peaceful purpose ;

- Principle whereby a State withdrawing from the Treaty must freeze under IAEA supervision then dismantle or return nuclear assets acquired from third countries for peaceful purposes, prior to withdrawal.

Resolution 1887 2 adopted on 24 September 2009 includes several provisions in this area and particularly underscores the role of the United Nations Security Council in dealing with withdrawals from the NPT.