In 1968 The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty was signed by several of the major nuclear and non-nuclear powers that pledged their cooperation in limiting the spread of nuclear technology.
“After the United States and the Soviet Union signed the Limited Test Ban Treaty in 1963, leaders of both nations hoped that other, more comprehensive agreements on arms control would be forthcoming. Given the excessive costs involved in the development and deployment of new and more technologically advanced nuclear weapons, both powers had an interest in negotiating agreements that would help to slow the pace of the arms race and limit competition in strategic weapons development. Four years after the first treaty, the two sides agreed to an Outer Space Treaty that prevented the deployment of nuclear weapons systems as satellites in space. Of far greater import, Soviet and U.S. negotiators also reached a settlement on concluding an international non-proliferation treaty” (www.history.state.gov).
“By the beginning of the 1960s, nuclear weapons technology had the potential to become widespread. The science of exploding and fusing atoms had entered into public literature via academic journals, and nuclear technology was no longer pursued only by governments, but by private companies as well. Plutonium, the core of nuclear weapons, was becoming easier to obtain and cheaper to process. As a result of these changes, by 1964 there were five nuclear powers in the world: in addition to the United States, the Soviet Union, and the United Kingdom, all of which obtained nuclear capability during or shortly after the Second World War, France exploded its first nuclear bomb in 1960, and the People’s Republic of China was not far behind in 1964. There were many other countries that had not yet tested weapons, but which were technologically advanced enough that should they decide to build them, it was likely that they could do so before long” (www.history.state.gov).
The Treaty opened for signature in 1968 and entered into force in 1970. On 11 May 1995, the Treaty was extended indefinitely. More countries have adhered to the NPT than any other arms limitation and disarmament agreement. North Korea announced its withdrawal from the Treaty in 2003. India, Israel, Pakistan, and South Sudan are the only UN member states that have never officially joined the Treaty. While the U.S., Russia, U.K., France, and China are the only states officially recognized as nuclear weapon states, it is believed/known that India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea have nuclear weapons and capabilities as well.
“The final treaty involved a number of provisions all aimed at limiting the spread of nuclear weapons technology. First, the nuclear signatories agreed not to transfer either nuclear weapons or nuclear weapons technology to any other state. Second, the non-nuclear states agreed that they would not receive, develop or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons. All of the signatories agreed to submit to the safeguards against proliferation established by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Parties to the treaty also agreed to cooperate in the development of peaceful nuclear technology and to continue negotiations to help end the nuclear arms race and limit the spread of the technology. The treaty was given a 25-year time limit, with the agreement that it would be reviewed every 5 years” (www.history.state.gov).
Critiques have argued that the Treaty will not stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons or the motivation to acquire them. It is extremely difficult to monitor other countries nuclear development and capabilities, especially if those states are not part of the NPT. Another concern to the international community is if a terrorist organization manages to get its hands on nuclear weapons. However, having nuclear weapons is not the same as being able to launch those nuclear weapons.