A pact set up 40 years ago to stop the spread of nuclear weapons faces unprecedented challenges, Foreign Minister Micheál Martin warned today.
Mr Martin said threats from countries like Iran and North Korea made the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as crucial as ever.
The minister told a UN conference in New York that the agreement – signed by 189 states – also faced serious risks because some countries were reluctant to fully implement all aspects of it.
“To insist on the urgency of non-proliferation while downplaying the importance of disarmament – an a la carte approach to the treaty – serves to weaken it,” he said.
“Such a selective approach will inevitably be copied by others. We will then have arrived at a situation where parties are implementing only those parts of the treaty which suit them.
“The treaty as international law must be implemented in full – in all its articles.”
Mr Martin called on North Korea – which withdrew from the pact in 2003 – to abandon any nuclear weapon-related programme in a transparent and irreversible manner.
The minister said Iran must also co-operate fully to allay concerns about the exact nature of its nuclear programme.
“There should be no doubt that from the point of view of Ireland and the bulk of non nuclear-weapon states, this conference will not be seen as a success unless we reach agreement on specific measures to advance disarmament,” he added.
“Forty years after the NPT entered into force, it is most disheartening to hear statements that the world may not be free of the threat from nuclear weapons in our lifetime – or even in that of our children. This is simply unacceptable.
“Ireland has consistently maintained that so long as some states are seen to covet their nuclear weapons and are reluctant to relinquish them, others will most assuredly covet them too, and strive to acquire them.”
With near-universal membership, the NPT has the widest adherence of any disarmament agreement.
Former Foreign Minister Frank Aiken first made the case for the pact more than 50 years ago and Ireland was invited to be the first country to put its name to it when it opened for signatures in 1968.
“My country has a long and close association with this treaty going back more than half a century,” Mr Martin said.
“Failure simply cannot be contemplated by those of us who value the treaty, and who want to see it achieve its full potential.”
Mr Martin’s address at the opening session of the NPT review conference comes as part of a two-day official visit to New York.
During the trip, the minister will also have a series of talks about boosting Ireland’s image abroad through cultural tourism.
He will meet with actor Gabriel Byrne, who was appointed the country’s first cultural ambassador in March.
The pair will discuss plans for a season of Irish arts and cultural events scheduled to take place in the US next year.