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Treaty ensures we get the balance right on nuke issues
COMMITMENT: The real test will be through delivery of action plan
GIVEN our expectation that worldwide energy demand is set to double by 2050, and that we must reduce global greenhouse gas emissions if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change, it is clear that the debate about the peaceful uses of nuclear power and the risks of the spread of nuclear weapons is set to continue.
The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is at the heart of our approach to this debate.
The treaty, borne out of fear that the Cold War era would lead to a nuclear arms race, has in many ways surpassed expectations in terms of longevity, participation and meeting its counter proliferation objectives.
Today, with 189 states parties, it has more signatories than any other treaty of its kind. The three non-signatories -- India, Israel and Pakistan -- are the only additional states believed to have gained possession of nuclear weapons since the treaty's inception in 1968.
While the treaty continues to be a considerable deterrent to the spread of nuclear weapons, we must all work to ensure that it evolves and adapts to counter current and future threats.
The outcome of the NPT Review Conference at the United Nations in New York in 2010 was a significant boost to multilateralism.
All states parties agreed to support the treaty to meet new and existing threats.
A five-year action plan was agreed by consensus, spanning the three so-called "pillars" of the NPT -- progress toward disarmament by existing nuclear weapon states, measures to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons to others and supporting the peaceful use of nuclear energy for those that want it.
The real test will be through delivery of the action plan to meet our commitments by the next Review Conference in 2015.
The 2012 NPT Preparatory Committee now being held in Vienna will be the first meeting of states parties to assess our progress and build on the success of 2010.
Since 2010, the United Kingdom (UK) has set out our plans for the reduction of our nuclear warheads, missiles and overall nuclear weapons stockpile.
Among the nuclear weapons states (China, France, Russia, the UK and the United States), all members of the NPT, stockpiles already stand at their lowest since the Cold War, and we meet regularly to discuss how we will work together to make further progress.
The UK has also been conducting ground-breaking work with Norway on the verification of nuclear warhead dismantlement, a crucial aspect of any future disarmament regime, and this month hosted the first ever meeting of the five nuclear weapon states on this issue.
We have also taken important steps towards preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
We continue to support a universal, strengthened system of safeguards to verify that states comply with their international obligations to uphold the non-proliferation regime.
The regime is also strengthened by Nuclear Weapons Free Zones which enhance regional and international security. In support of this, the UK, together with the other nuclear weapons states recognised under the NPT, reached an agreement with Asean, underscoring that we will not use, or threaten to use, nuclear weapons against the 10 states party to the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapons Free Zone.
Credible, internationally binding commitments are vital to building the climate of trust between nuclear and non-nuclear weapons states.
With this latest addition, such arrangements now cover almost 100 countries.
Furthermore, since 2010, the UK has worked to support the safe expansion of civil-nuclear energy and has recently completed agreements to share nuclear energy knowledge and capabilities with the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait.
Following the tragic events at Fukushima, the UK undertook comprehensive nuclear safety checks and reviewed our own nuclear energy future, including identifying eight potential sites for new nuclear power stations.
The NPT offers the best chance we have of getting the balance right on nuclear issues: with progress towards the long-term goal of a world free of the threat of nuclear weapons, while allowing the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. It is a goal to which I am personally committed.
If we fail, we risk the uncontrolled spread of nuclear weapons to rogue states and terrorist groups. It is a shared responsibility of us all to ensure we do not fail.
For details on PrepCom, visit http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/global-issues/counter-proliferation/nuclear-2010/nuclear-overview/ or follow PrepCom using #NPT at https://twitter.com/#!/UKMissionGeneva