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Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is a treaty, opened for signature on July 1, 1968, to which the majority of states (187) are parties, restricting the possession of nuclear weapons to the US (signed 1968), UK (1968), France (1992), Russia (1968) and China (1992) (the five states which possessed nuclear weapons when the treaty was adopted, which are also the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.) These 5 NWS (Nuclear Weapons States) agree not to transfer nuclear weapons technology to other states, and the non-NWS state parties agree not to seek to develop nuclear weapons.

The 5 NWS parties have made undertakings not to use their nuclear weapons against a non-NWS party except in response to a nuclear attack, or a conventional attack in alliance with an Nuclear Weapons State. However, these undertakings have not been incorporated formally into the treaty, and the exact detail of them has at times varied. (The United States, for instance, has indicated that it may use nuclear weapons in response to an attack with non-nuclear "weapons of mass destruction", such as chemical or biological weapons.)

In New York City, on May 11, 1995, more than 170 countries decided to extend the Treaty indefinitely and without conditions.

Several states refuse to sign the treaty. India, Pakistan and Israel possess nuclear weapons, which would be prohibited by the treaty. South Africa formerly undertook a nuclear weapons program, with the assistance of Israel, and may have detonated a nuclear test over the Atlantic, but has since renounced its nuclear program and signed the treaty in the early 1990s after destroying its small nuclear arsenal. India and Pakistan have publicly announced possession of nuclear weapons, and have detonated nuclear tests. Israel has been developing nuclear weapons at its Dimona site in the Negev since 1958, and is believed to have stockpiled hundreds of warheads—claims the Israeli government refuses to confirm or deny. Cuba is the only other non-signatory nation, after Brazil signed-up in 1997. North Korea signed, but revoked its signature after a dispute with inspectors over inspections of non-declared nuclear facilities.

See also: nuclear proliferation, nuclear weapon, nuclear war, nuclear reactor, International Atomic Energy Agency

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