Possible Constraints on
future UK decision-making
on any replacement for Trident
What international constraints /
obligations would we face if we were to take a decision to replace
The Government is yet to take a decision
on whether or not to replace Trident. However, were a decision
taken to acquire a successor system, we foresee currently that
the most relevant international obligations would be: a) the Treaty
on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons; b) the Comprehensive
Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty; c) the Hague Code of Conduct; d) the
Missile Technology Control Regime; and e) the Nuclear Weapons
Free Zones treaties. The Government will continue to comply fully
with these international legal and political commitments.
a) The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation
of Nuclear Weapons
In this context, the two most relevant
articles of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons
(NPT) are Articles I and VI:
- In accordance with Article I nuclear-weapon
States have undertaken "not to transfer to any recipient
whatsoever nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices
or control over such weapons or explosive devices directly, or
indirectly; and not in any way to assist, encourage, or induce
any non-nuclear-weapon State to manufacture or otherwise acquire
nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, or control
over such weapons or explosive devices.
- As one of the five nuclear-weapon
States, the UK is obliged under Article VI of the NPT to "pursue
negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to the
cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear
disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament
under strict and effective international control."
We have already taken a number of significant
steps in meeting our disarmament obligations under the NPT. For
example, we have reduced our nuclear capability to a minimum deterrent,
represented by a single nuclear- weapons system. Since the end
of the Cold War we have reduced the total explosive power of our
nuclear forces by over 70%. We have also reduced the readiness
of our nuclear forces: only a single Trident submarine is now
on deterrent patrol, carrying 48 warheads
which are de-targetted and
are at several days "notice to fire".
b) Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban
We signed the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban
Treaty (CTBT) in September 1996 and ratified it in April 1998.
This treaty prohibits any nuclear weapon test explosion or any
other nuclear explosion. The Treaty's preamble recognises that
the cessation of such tests constitutes an effective measure of
nuclear disarmament by constraining the development and qualitative
improvement of nuclear weapons and ending the development of advanced
new types of such weapons. We view the CTBT as an important part
of the international regime to implement global nuclear disarmament
and prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Although it
has not yet entered into force and is therefore not a legally
binding constraint, the UK is observing a moratorium on testing
and has not conducted any nuclear test explosions since 1991.
c) Hague Code of Conduct
The Hague Code of Conduct (HCOC) aims
to bolster efforts to curb ballistic missile proliferation. Under
the HCOC the UK has committed to producing an annual statement
of our missile policy, details of test sites and the numbers
and types of missiles held.
The UK is also committed to notify partners in advance of any
launch of a long-range missile. It is intended to supplement,
not replace, the Missile Technology Control Regime.
In paragraph 3c) of the HCOC States
resolved to exercise maximum possible restraint in the development,
testing and deployment of Ballistic Missiles capable of delivering
weapons of mass destruction (WMD), including, where possible,
to reduce national holdings of such missiles.
d) Missile Technology Control
Under the Missile Technology Control
Regime (MTCR) States seek to co-ordinate national export control
licensing efforts and policies with the aim of preventing the
proliferation of delivery systems for WMD.
The UK has committed to apply the MTCR's
common export control policy to our list of controlled items according
to our own national export control legislation. Greatest restraint
is applied to "Category I" systems. These comprise complete
rocket systems capable of carrying at least a 500kg payload to
a range of at least 300km, and their complete sub-systems and
production facilities. For these systems, there is a strong presumption
to deny transfer among MTCR members. However, an "aide memoire"
attached to the MTCR states that the regime does not supersede
any agreement that came into force prior to 1997. This, for example,
allows the transfer of Category 1 systems between NATO members.
e) Nuclear Weapons Free Zones
The UK supports the principle of Nuclear
Weapon Free Zones (NWFZs) treaties, which are regional in nature
and set out the international legal constraints on the stationing,
use and transiting of nuclear weapons among the States party to
them. We believe they can make a valuable contribution to nuclear
non-proliferation and global and regional peace and security.
For that reason, we have signed and
ratified the relevant Protocols to the Treaties establishing NWFZs
- Latin America (Tlatelolco). This
treaty prohibits inter alia the testing, deployment, possession
and use of nuclear weapons or explosive devices in the Territories
of the States party to the Treaty.
- The South Pacific (Raratonga). This
treaty applies to an area south of the equator, including Australia.
Parties are bound inter alia to prevent the stationing and testing
of nuclear weapons and explosive devices within their territory.
- Africa (Pelindaba). This treaty,
inter alia, prohibits the stationing of nuclear weapons and explosive
devices within the territory of States Parties.
The consequence of UK ratification of
these Protocols is, inter alia, an undertaking by us not to test
nuclear weapons within the zone of the Treaties or to contribute
to any act which would constitute a violation of the Treaties
or the relevant protocol by States Parties, and, where relevant,
that our Overseas Territories situated within the zone of the
Treaties will be subject to certain of the provisions of those
Treaties, including the prohibition on stationing nuclear weapons
within those Territories situated within the zone.