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Instead of threatening preventive war and raising the risks of dangerous miscalculation, why doesn’t Washington accept the fact that North Korea has nuclear weapons and focus on deterring the regime from using them, achieving limits on the size or sophistication of the arsenal, or reducing the risk of conflict on the Peninsula?
Yet there is an unintended downside to the NPT regime.
By freezing the roster of legitimate nuclear powers at the five that existed in 1968, the NPT makes it difficult for the United States to adopt realistic policies toward countries that have subsequently acquired nuclear weapons.
Moreover, it has invested huge amounts of economic and political capital in the project, defying the predictions of experts who doubted its capability to develop a sophisticated nuclear arsenal and gaining international clout as a result.
This raises a question: If North Korea is highly unlikely to give up its nuclear weapons, why does the United States continue to demand this?
This treaty recognized the five states that had exploded nuclear weapons as of January 1, 1967 as the only legitimate nuclear powers—the United States, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, France, and China.
It barred non-nuclear signatories from developing their own nuclear weapons, called for the nuclear powers to support the peaceful uses of nuclear technology, and committed the nuclear powers to work toward eventual disarmament.
These essays show that success must be measured not only by how many states join the effort but also by how they participate once they join.
especially ones led by erratic and bellicose leaders.
Nye is Deputy to the Under Secretary of State for Security Assistance, Science and Technology.
He chairs the National Security Council Group on Nonproliferation that formulated the Carter Administration's policy.