Replacing Trident

by Carl Gardner on November 29, 2006

Kate Hudson, the chair of CND, wrote in the Guardian today arguing that a decision by the British government to renew or replace Trident would be in breach of the Nuclear non-proliferation treaty. Apparently Rabinder Singh QC and Prof. Christine Chinkin have given advice to that effect:

Article VI of the NPT states that each of the parties to the treaty should undertake to pursue “negotiations in good faith on effective measures” relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race and to nuclear disarmament. It is hard to see how replacing http://www.raybani.com/ Trident contributes to good faith negotiations towards disarmament. And where are the multilateral initiatives from our government that are so badly needed?

Recent legal opinion shows that a replacement of Trident would not be acceptable under the NPT. In 2005, Rabinder Singh QC and Professor Christine Chinkin stated their opinion that the replacement of Trident is likely to constitute a material breach of Article VI.

“The linkage between the principles of non-proliferation and the obligation to negotiate towards disarmament … indicate that Article VI is a provision ‘essential to the accomplishment of the object or purpose of the treaty’. “The non-nuclear weapon states required commitments from the nuclear weapon states as part of their willingness to accept non-nuclear status under the NPT and failure to comply with article VI thus, in our view, constitutes material breach.”

Yeah, right. I find this advice unconvincing, or at least the way Kate Hudson has characterised it. Sure, nuclear weapon states like the UK have not negotiated general disarmament as envisaged by article VI, and I guess you could argue that, by having failed to achieve that for Ray Ban outlet so long, and showing no sign of being about to do so, they’re in material breach. But I think even that’s ambitious given that it’s arguable that no state party can fulfil article VI on its own, and therefore can’t be responsible for a breach uness it actively refuses to take part in an existing disarmament initiative.

So, either the UK is now in breach of the treaty, if you go along with Rabinder Singh, or, more likely, it’s not – regardless of what we do about Trident. What’s clear though is that renewing Trident isn’t itself a breach – nothing in the treaty forbids states from maintaining or renewing their nuclear weapons capability pending disarmament.

In case you’re wondering, India, Pakistan and Israel haven’t signed the treaty, and North Korea is the only country to have withdrawn from it, in 2003. Iran remains a party.

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