Richard Johnson Statement before the House Foreign Affairs Committee

50 Years of the Non-proliferation Treaty: Strengthening the NPT in the Face of Iranian and North Korean Nonproliferation Challenges
March 3, 2020

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear

Chairman Deutch, Chairman Bera, Ranking Member Wilson, Ranking Member Yoho, thank you for inviting me to testify this morning before your subcommittees. The subject of this hearing is timely, as we are just two months away from the opening session of the 2020 Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Cases of Noncompliance: North Korea and Iran

In international relations terms, the NPT has been an overwhelming success story. However, some of the important exceptions are the subject of today’s hearing. The inability of the international community to date to prevent North Korea from acquiring and testing nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them is perhaps the biggest failure of the nonproliferation regime. North Korea began developing its nuclear program under the guise of peaceful purposes as a state party to the NPT and withdrew after NPT-mandated international safeguards inspections discovered undeclared activity related to plutonium. The North Korean case is a cautionary tale that it is always better to prevent a state from acquiring nuclear weapons through strong monitoring and verification measures than to try rolling back a fully developed nuclear weapons program.

This lesson was learned in the case of Iran, where the international community came together on the basis of the NPT to draw attention to Tehran’s undeclared nuclear activities, its nascent weapons program, and its lack of cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to implement the safeguards required under the Treaty. It was only the combination of coordinated, multilateral economic sanctions and sustained diplomatic negotiations that succeeded in preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. The NPT must continue to serve as the basis for efforts to maintain Iran’s status as a non-nuclear weapons state going forward.