A conference on atomic arms control has opened in New York with the world's nuclear powers facing demands to speed up disarmament.
The UN Secretary General has told delegates the current treaty limiting the spread of nuclear weapons needs revising.
Kofi Annan said "in our interconnected world, a threat to one is a threat to all and we all share responsibility for our security".
This is the seventh review of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) since it came into force in 1970.
Does the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty still serve a useful purpose? Should the nuclear powers fulfil their obligation to disarm? How should it change for the 21st Century?
This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.
The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:
The treaty is a farce. If you think the US will reduce its arsenal and risk its position of being the dominant military power in the world, then you must be dreaming.
Rakesh Sharma, USA
Anyone that defends Iran and North Korea's right to defend themselves is missing the point completely. Why would Iran or North Korea fire a nuclear weapon if they can sell it to a group of terrorists? Nuclear weapons should not be in the hands of people bent on destroying a way of life or a free society.
Apparently, many who post here would feel very comfortable with the fact that Iran may soon be able to launch nuclear weapons. I am not.
Steve, Los Angeles, USA
Nuclear reality is part of our lives. Having invented this power we must accept that it cannot be un-invented. World leaders should set an example by disarming their own arsenals and persuading nuclear disarmament in global terms.
SM Ahmed, Coventry
The point of the NPT is not to legally enforce disarmament or ensure that no state ever builds the bomb. If a state really wants it, nothing short of force is going to be able to stop them. The point is to give adequate warning to other states that someone isn't playing by the rules and to adjust their policies accordingly. In this way, the NPT has been nothing but a success.
I don't see what the problem is. Nuclear technology is not evil. It is what we do with it that is evil or not. If a nuclear bomb helps stop a war then more power to it. More people have died in a conventional war than in any atomic or nuclear explosions.
Patrick, Ohio, USA
I see nothing wrong with nuclear weapons being held by the true democracies of this world, but they must be kept out of the hands of dictatorships, for that is where the true danger lies.
Terence Smart, Mocton, Canada
The biggest nuclear stockpile in the world didn't deter 9/11 did it? The case for nuclear deterrence has completely collapsed. The NPT is worthless because the US keeps getting round it. Military strategy should be immune from party politics and as a military strategy, nuclear deterrence just does not work.
How could anyone consider the NPT to be a bad thing? Is it not working towards a safer, nuclear weapon free society and is this not what everybody wants? The NPT has so far been successful, persuading a number of states to relinquish their nuclear weapons, so denouncing it now would only be a step backwards, not forwards.
This treaty is somewhat flawed in the fact that the USA and UK have no intention of disarming themselves. Is it any wonder other countries want nuclear arms when the advocates of the policy won't do so themselves?
Emma, Bristol, UK
Andy Shaw, UK- can you imagine a world where the UK, USA and Israel disarm only to find out that North Korea and Iran have bombs? We'd be completely at their mercy. It would be like that episode of The Simpsons where Earth disarms only to be invaded by aliens armed with a catapult and a baseball bat (incidentally the Earth is saved when barkeeper Mo re-arms with a plank with a nail in it).
If Iran or anyone else sent a nuclear bomb to any other country, they wouldn't have time to watch it explode before seeing hundreds came back at them. For this reason, the Cold War never went hot, and a nuclear bomb will never be dropped in war.
Scott Hemphill, London, England
Given that absolute power corrupts absolutely, a nuclear deterrent is the only effective safeguard against invasion. Does anyone honestly believe that we would have invaded Iraq if Saddam did possess weapons of mass destruction? Come on!
Andy Bird, Cheshire, UK
The NPT should be strengthened. All countries with nuclear weapons should make a concerted effort to eliminate them. A deadline should be set for all countries to disarm.
Hannah Hernandez, Heron, MT, USA
No matter how far the UN tries to make the NPT conference a success, the United States will carry on with their bully attitude to resume researches on nuclear weapons. With what audacity US criticised Iran's nuclear ambitions, when they are most reluctant to support its complete ban?
Shib SenChaudhury, Calcutta, India
How ironic it is that the USA wants everyone else to get rid of their weapons - basically rendered defenceless - but yet at the same time is only second to Russia in the number of nuclear warheads? How interesting. The better to bully and use pre-emptive war rhetoric against resource-rich poorer countries. The USA's policy and agenda is apparent to any sane and logical person.
The NPT treaty as it stands calls for the present nuclear countries to eventually disarm their stockpile. Any new treaty should start by looking at a firm commitment on the part of the nuclear club to truly dispose of their arsenal. Otherwise it is just talk.
Mark, Rochester, USA
Nuclear weapons are vital to keeping the peace. Reducing the numbers will lull people into a false sense of security that a nuclear war is winnable.
David, Bristol, UK
To the people who believe that that Iran and North Korea should be allowed nuclear weapons. Please tell me you aren't serious. Allowing those countries to obtain nuclear weapons is not an option. The leaders of these countries are more likely to use nukes.
James, Antrim, NI
If the nuclear powers do not fulfil their obligation to disarm, why should other countries not acquire nuclear weapons for themselves? They have a right to defend themselves.
James Sorbara, Vancouver, Canada
Great if everybody did it, but dangerous if some do and others don't. Deterrence is the only thing that's kept us alive for so long. Unless the world does it, we should forget it.
We owe it to the stability and peace of the whole world to extend the NPT indefinitely and to take immediate steps to disarm all nuclear weapons, unilaterally if necessary. The finance released could be diverted to peace-building and poverty reduction initiatives.
Steve, Saddleworth, UK
Unfortunately, as long as countries such as the USA and Israel continue to develop nuclear weapons, it is perceived to be in the interests of non-nuclear states to begin building a bomb. Unless we push for total disarmament, the problem is going to escalate.
Andy Shaw, UK
The NPT is one of the ultimate shows of arrogance by the US and UK. They both signed it, yet they both carry on developing more and more deadly weapons. They don't allow legally mandated UN weapons inspectors to see their sites, yet they scream when another country waits to find a key to the door. Utter hypocrisy. Personally, I would like to see every country in the world with ICBM's and then see how the US government tries to justify itself!
I see the NPT as another way for the super powers to maintain their status quo. If America has not ratified the treaty to date and she has thousands of nuclear warheads, it thus betrays sincerity. For the US to threaten Iran's nuclear acquisition process especially when Israel has nuclear capability is an insight into the American's mischief.
Abubakar Abbas, Abuja, Nigeria
You cannot un-invent the atom bomb; if one country has it, others will want it. Why should America with its history of political expediency, summed up by the phrase "my enemies' enemy is my friend " ( for a while anyway ) tell people who can and can't have the 'A' bomb? America has some pretty dodgy friends with atomic weapons, including Israel, who are the major cause of most of the Middle East's problems.
Chris, Telford, UK
The double standard is appalling. Just like any country in the face of the world, Iran has the right to possess nuclear weapons too. Unless, obviously, the current nuclear powers decide to disarm. By the way, what country has used these weapons before? The same reasons the Western countries possess these weapons can be justified by all other nations. We need fairness in this world.
Peter, New York, NY
I think that all the nuclear weapons in the world should be redistributed so that each country has an amount based on their population and land area. It sounds crazy, but if you think about it, it will bring back the one good thing about nuclear weapons that has been absent since the end of the Cold War, the threat of mutually assured destruction.
Andrew, Stafford, UK
Please stop comparing the US to North Korea and Iran. We (along with our allies) are protecting freedoms that we in the West have from the type of leaders North Korea and Iran have.
Todd, Virginia, USA
I don't think that the treaty is serving its purpose at all. The nuclear powers are not fulfilling their obligations to disarm either. I suggest to encourage non-nuclear states, the existing treaty should be changed and must have a clause clearly stating that nuclear power will not use its nuclear weapons on any non-nuclear signatory states of this treaty.
Javed Janjua, Dubai, UAE
Ironically, it is the smaller nuclear powers (some of them) which seem to be most responsible with their weapons. India, for example, maintains a no-first-strike policy, actually keeping the warheads and the delivery systems physically separated. Compare that with the US, China, and Russia which have large numbers of weapons ready to actually launch at other nations! Further, I don't think that many nations would risk supplying a terrorist group with a WMD. If the sale was eventually traced back to them (and doubtless it would be in the event of a nuclear attack) they would have no chance whatsoever of remaining in power.
Brendan Harnett, York, PA, USA
The treaty does not need to be revised, it needs to be better enforced. Russia and the United States have made huge arms reductions and are continuing. The treaty never meant for nations like Britain, France, United States, Russia, China, etc... it was to prevent growing nuclear arsenals and arms reductions. The whole idea of possession of nuclear weapons is so that they're never used. Countries that have had these weapons will not give them up for reasons of deterrence.
John, Aliso Viejo, CA, USA
Who is to say that the US is any less of a nuclear threat than Iran? After all, they are the only ones in the NPT developing new tactical nukes, and the only country to ever use a nuclear weapon. The NPT will remain a joke as long as the bigger nuclear powers don't disarm and expect others to disarm because they tell them to.
Mishuk, Manama, Bahrain
The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty would greatly serve if all the nuclear powers have been strictly committed to its items. The vitality and importance of such a treaty is really based on the fulfilment of the obligation of the disarmament of the nuclear powers.
Nabil Abdel Ahad Abdel Baky, Cairo, Egypt
The NPT is crucial to international peace and security and must be strengthened so that there is a deadline for disarmament. Britain and the US must scrap their plans for new nukes and disarm. Anyway, what use is a nuclear bomb against a suicide bomber? Nukes are relics of the Cold War and pose much more of a threat than a defence.
Please don't let the NPT go the way of the Kyoto agreement and the ABM Treaty! Nuclear proliferation is a huge threat, and that includes proliferation by countries like our own.
In my view, the Non-Proliferation Treaty has become a big stick in the hands of powerful countries. It is used to frighten developing countries that intend to safeguard their territories and regain their lost dignity in a world the big fish eats the little ones.
Abdelhamid Bouziane, Algeria
The NNPT is a joke. The only treaty that may work is a total ban of nuclear weapons from the face of the earth. So long as a there are countries that have these weapons then it is imperative that those that not have these weapons now will on work to acquire them
Green David, Austin, TX
The issue is not the treaty, it is technology. No treaty can change the fact that the technology exists and anybody can build nuclear weapons. It's better for all to have them and fear the use by the other, rather than none have them.
Preetham Mukhatira, Dallas, TX, USA
At heart the NPT is designed to reduce the risk of nuclear war and clearly this is still a valid goal but it must recognise the geopolitical landscape today and not hold on to a vision thirty years old.
How many people who stand by the possession of nuclear weapons can meet, see, or at least imagine those who have suffered from the after effects of the atomic bomb for 60 years? A lot of victims have fought against the keloid, alopecia, coetaneous carcinoma and so on. To learn about Hiroshima and Nagasaki is more meaningful and important than whether to or not to follow NPT. It is just time for us to act.
Mitsu, Tokyo, Japan
The USA (and other countries as well) are not as concerned about countries developing nuclear weapons as they are those same weapons falling into the hands of terrorists. The more people with nuclear abilities the more likely there will be an irresponsible person handing them out to the highest bidder (as in Pakistan). This is the danger, not Iran or even North Korea having the weapons.
Who would you rather had these WMD? The US, Britain and France or Iran, North Korea and some tin pot former Soviet State? It's all very well saying that they have a right to own them, but when the chips are down, I'd rather our side had them than theirs.
Ed, London, UK
I am sure everyone agrees we should not allow thugs to own any weapons. Think about a gun in the hand of police and a gun in the hand of thug. But the problem is that we need a good judge to decide who the thug is and who is not.
While the NPT can be interpreted as a tool of Western domination, there are almost 190 signatories to it, more than any other arms treaty. By signing, all these nations have made a statement that they feel the world is better off by limiting the number of nuclear weapons states (NWS). But of course, there needs to be reciprocal actions by the NWS to proceed towards disarmament.
If no one would wants to co-operate on saying no to nuclear arms and uranium enrichment, what's the point of signing the NPT? This treaty risks being irrelevant since it is full of holes and unfairness. The NPT review is long overdue.
You can scrap the weapons but you can't uninvent the knowledge. If the main nuclear powers were to disarm, they could still build an atomic weapon in a time of political tension if they wanted to. This fact alone renders the whole disarmament argument pointless.
Baz, Huddersfield, England
What is the point? The NPT was already agreed upon a long time ago. The crux of the problem is not getting a renewal on promises made decades ago - rather that promises are worthless if they come from parties with no intention of honouring them. Like Kyoto, countries have talked the talk, so let us now see them walk the walk.
Robert Arisz, Amsterdam
Since when did politicians take any notice of what the general public says on this issue?
Mark Allen, UK
Although the nuclear non-proliferation treaty calls for the eventual abolition of nuclear weapons, today there are at least 20 nations which are trying to secure nuclear technologies for weapons purposes. The American spread of armaments and biological and chemical weapons around the world, especially in Israel, has created serious problems. Why isn't the United States getting rid of nuclear weapons instead of building more?
Selen, Istanbul, Turkey
Why all fuss over this issue? With all the technology in this day and age nuclear weapons are the only deterrent capable of preventing WW3. No country would dare to use them knowing full well that before theirs landed, there would already be some on the way back to them. NPT is a great idea but the problem is that not all the nuclear powers will never disarm.
Dave Harding, Abingdon, England
The NPT does not stop countries from enriching uranium, therefore, a country could move dangerously close to having a nuclear bomb without breaking the treaty and then pull out of it. The treaty is impotent and useless if a country truly wishes to create nuclear weapons.
Erik, Ft. Collins, USA
The NPT is such an irony. If a country follows NPT, it will not have nuclear weapon. If a country does not follow NPT and get the nuclear weapon, others will not be able to do a thing because it already has the nuclear weapon. So the honest ones are at the losing end.
Wu Yuan, Singapore/China
Fear of nuclear attack and politics of detent will continue to lead to proliferation. The countries who have used these weapons in the past and have capacity to use in future have to undertake confidence building measures such as disarmament and treaties of non use of nuclear weapons. Use of chemical Orange by USA in Vietnam is as serious a matter as use of nuclear arsenal. The UN has become weak over the years and cannot be looked upon as an implementing and overseeing agency because of the highhanded attitude of a few countries. NPT or any other treaty will not succeed unless all the nations are treated equally and assured of sovereignty and fair treatment.
Avinash Chudhary, Pune, India
NPT Conference will be useless unless the big powers like USA, UK, Russia, China do something concrete. On one hand they want to hold on to the technology and bully others by showing their red eyes; and at the same time they expect others to understand that this technology is bad for mankind and thus be abandoned. The UN should first impose a deadline to these power hungry countries for disowning this technology and then start advising others. If the Nuclear power nations cannot fulfil the deadline, then let us not talk about NPT at all for any nation in the world.
S A H Ismail, Kolkata, India
As long as the US, France, Great Britain, Russia, China, Israel, India, Pakistan, North Korea and maybe Iran possess nuclear weapons any other country in the world has the same right, too. All men are equal, aren't they?
Jack Daniel, Doha, Qatar
It seems pretty prevalent on this site to assume that just because two states are sovereign they should have equal political rights. North Korea is a totalitarian police state. They are not morally equivalent to the democratic states. To allow them to possess nuclear weapons is idiocy.
Will McElgin, Chicago USA
The NPT is a noble idea but hasn't worked and probably will never work. All the countries in the world would have to trust each other to comply with the treaty and to trust each other not to engage in war. I don't see this type of world trust happening in my lifetime.
Eric, Detroit, USA
I am appalled to read that Israel has nuclear weapons. I am in disbelief to hear that it refuses to give account of it. Why is the world not acting toward Israel the same as for Iran and North Korea?
I think the Non Proliferation Treaty was always an attempt by the winners of World War II to keep the most efficient weapons in the hand of the western countries and leave everyone else at their mercy. This treaty must be modified so other countries can have some defence capability against the western powers that are in their mode of invading other countries like Iraq under the name of democracy.
Atiq, San Francisco, USA
The first country that should disarm and lead by example is France. Everyone loves France, both East and West, and would never attack them anyway. Why on earth do they need nukes for protection? They should show their courage, leadership and high moral standing and abolish their nuclear arsenal.
Frank, North Carolina, USA
The main obstacle has always been the shameful hypocrisy of those who have nuclear weapons and this includes Britain. We cannot tell others not to have nuclear weapons when we in Britain are just planning to increase the British arsenal of nuclear weapons. If North Korea, Iran and Argentina want to have nuclear weapons, good for them. The whole treaty is an idiotic way of telling others 'do what we say, but not what we do.'
Carlos Cortiglia, London, United Kingdom
NPT may lose its credibility if doesn't recognise Iran's right to use atomic energy in peaceful purposes.
Nima, Shiraz, Iran
I for one am perfectly happy for the Iranians, the Russians, North Koreans, and all the other countries who are being subjected to American pressure to disarm keep their weapons as a deterrent to the Americans and their satellites, who are seeking to dominate the whole planet. Israel is now the biggest threat to peace in the Middle East as Iraq ever was.
Thomas Lowry, Leeds UK
The ironic part to be kept in mind is that nuclear weapons are the ultimate weapons and they are the peace keepers. The only reason there hasn't been a world war in 60 years, and it's unlikely for one to occur is because of the Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) doctrine of the nuclear weapons. Which is why the US and USSR never fought overtly. And which is why today, an India Pakistan war is ever so remote despite Pentagon calling it a "hotspot". Long live nuclear weapons.
Prabodh, Mysore, India
If the US and Russia feel safer keeping their nuclear arsenals, why can't Iran, North Korea and others? Something is surely out of order and out of date. The 21st century is the time for nuclear superpowers to stop dictating rules purely for others and start developing a new international system of uniform laws for all nations, poor and rich, big and small.
Jon Huhm, Sao Paulo, Brazil
As long as the nuclear powers such as the United States and Britain boast and increase their nuclear arsenal, do whatever they want, and try to control other nations (through new means of colonization), why shouldn't other countries build nuclear weapons as a deterrent?
Muhammad, TX, USA
What right does the US have to say that other countries cannot have nuclear weapons while they support the second largest population of nuclear weapons? Sounds like the pot calling the kettle black.
Jonathan, Milwaukee, WI
How can Iran and North Korea be expected to comply with disarmament treaties, when even America and other "nuclear powers" have failed in their commitments to comply? They are hardly setting a good example.
The treaty could be useful for two reasons. Even though we will never eliminate these weapons, it is important that there be a system for reduction in countries like Russia, which still has more warheads than it can safely manage. Second, it is hypocritical for the US to demand that other countries remain disarmed while we develop new types of nukes. Reduction would send the right message.
Kit, Memphis, USA
As long as some nations have this power and others do not, there will be problems. Everyone needs to disarm their nuclear arsenals. It is my guess that this is not going to happen, as some like to stay on top, and have the most bargaining power. With India, Israel and Pakistan now having nuclear power, proliferation has already taken place. It now seems more dangerous for nations to have this power than not to have it. The pendulum has most certainly swung the other way as more nations are working on nuclear power.
M. Clark, UK/US
NPT "was" a noble endeavour for world peace. However, it is just another tool in the Western world's arsenal of domination. They are too willing to talk about the obligations of the non-weapon states, but they easily forget their obligations under the NPT treaty.
Israel is a country surrounded by millions of people who wish it would cease to exist. Demanding Israel to sign this treaty is like asking someone to sign his own death penalty.
Yotam, Jerusalem, Israel
Until you eliminate the reasons nations go to war, there is no hope of eliminating nuclear weapons and little hope of preventing their spread. Whether it is the desire for dominance or the desire for survival, nations will find a reason to keep such weapons. The best hope is to reduce the number of weapons but still maintain a credible deterrence. I believe that the existence of nuclear weapons has prevented WW3.
When everyone else disarms, then maybe we will. But until you can come up with a way to make sure everyone else has disarmed, we will continue to employ our strategic deterrent. Peace through strength is what won the Cold War, and the idea of us giving up our weapons while other nations have them is utterly preposterous.
Zach Smith, Bloomington, IN, USA
The NPT should be compulsory for every nation and if nations decide not to sign they should be banned from having any type of nuclear technology. There should also be a new treaty drawn up limiting all nations with nuclear weapons to keeping an absolute minimum of operational warheads.
Paul B, Swindon, UK
There is no way that you will ever get rid of these weapons. We have the knowledge to make them and that can never be eliminated. MAD - mutually assured destruction is all we have now.
Todd, Virginia, USA
In general conferences can make a difference, but in recent years it is not highly typical. Did we get closer to any solution through any of the conferences held in recent years? National interests and economic prospects-chasers are the main obstacles to any solutions. I am afraid that this NPT conference will be the same.
Mary McCannon, Budapest, Hungary
Total nuclear disarmament is a pipe dream. Imagine if the US, UK, and dare I say France, disarm. Now that would leave a whole lot of options for countries like Russia and China, wouldn't it? And I'm sure North Korea and Iran would finally see the utopian light and suddenly agree to play by the rules? Get real.
Patrick, Arlington, VA
It serves no purpose so long as the UN turns a blind eye as more and more countries become armed with nuclear ordnance. Why would the US and other nuclear powers reduce their arsenals if the world body sits on its hands as more and more nations try to force their way into the nuclear club? This is the end result of world organisations with no backbone.
John, San Antonio, TX, USA
All existing nuclear powers should by all means begin to disarm all nuclear weapons. Call me naive, but I don't think any country would ever use a nuclear weapon because of the very real possibility of massive nuclear war that would ensue. Isn't it time that billions of dollars are spent on something other than a better way of annihilating mankind?
Salman Hoda, Oakville, Canada
Shouldn't we be creating peace by building up alliances and friendships with other nations, rather than keeping peace through the underlying nuclear threat?
Reducing the arsenals is only the icing on the cake. A huge reduction will still leave any of the larger nuclear countries capable of reducing another to ash. These weapons are not designed to be used, the keyword is deterrence. Let them stay.
Paul Beckett, London, UK
The NPT is worthless. Three nuclear countries (Israel, Pakistan and India) are not even parties to it and I expect Iran to pull out soon. The only way to minimise nuclear weapons is to limit them for everyone, including the US.
Jim, San Francisco, USA
The clearest problem with the conference is the fact that the biggest nuclear threats in the world, such as North Korea and Iran, will not be at this conference and until these countries are brought to question, until they are put under mass worldwide pressure, non-proliferation will not happen. Added to this is the fact that countries such as the US and Russia are a law upon themselves and they will always point the finger at someone else.
Jason Robinson, Dublin, Ireland
The nuclear powers should fulfil their obligations to disarm. They have to lead by example. If they don't disarm, how can they convince other countries to disarm? As for the 21st century, countries should be geared towards eradicating poverty instead of spending a fortune on nuclear weapons.
Omorodion Osula, Boston, USA
America will never disarm. It's stated global strategy is not just to maintain American dominance, but to ensure that no other power can ever challenge this dominance. Nuclear weapons are an essential part of this strategy.
Rob, Guildford, UK
Even if all nations that have nuclear weapons did disarm, the problem will not go away. These nations will still hold the technology, skills and knowledge to make more. All they will need is a strong enough reason and we are all back to square one. You can take away someone's cooker but you'll never stop them from knowing how to use a cooker. If the NPT is to be of any use, then not only must it follow tactics suggested by Josh, USA, but it must also ensure that nations are not given any reason to re-arm.
Aaron David Hall, Worcester, UK
The NPT certainly still serves a purpose in that very few countries have pursued nuclear weapons capabilities compared to 35 years ago. However, the main problem with the treaty is that it relies on fear - of nuclear war in general, of sanctions, of ostracism on the international stage - to keep nuclear arms in check. The only way to make something like this work is to engender a feeling of international importance. If it only serves the ends of the current nuclear powers, it loses validity in the eyes of other nations. In the spirit of the greater good then, current powers should seek to reduce their arsenals. This would also put others who feel threatened by the current nuclear powers more at ease.
Josh, Traverse City, Michigan, USA
Let me guess, a treaty will be drafted for global nuclear decommissioning yet the only country not to sign up will be the good old USA? And maybe France will abstain as there's still a few Pacific islands that haven't yet been used as test sites.
Country without nuclear capabilities would be stupid to listen to the ones that already got nuclear weapons. I see no reason why countries such as US, UK, Israel, France, Pakistan etc would be allow to defend themselves but not Iran. It is incredibly naive to ask for this.
Nicolas Gibert, Paris, France