Negative security assurances (NSAs) and positive security assurances (PSAs) are statements by nuclear powers intended to reassure non-nuclear weapon states that they will not be the victims of nuclear attack. An NSA is a declaration that a country will not use nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear weapon state. A PSA declaration is one in which a nuclear weapon state pledges that it will come to the aid of a non-nuclear weapon state if that state is the victim of a nuclear attack. There is no formal treaty on NSAs, although all nuclear-weapon states, including China, have issued unilateral NSA pledges. The five nuclear powers harmonized their PSAs in April 1995, in UN Security Council Resolution 984.
China and Security Assurances:
China has issued both negative and positive security assurances. As early as 1964, China indicated that it favored an NSA statement by all nuclear powers that they would not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states, and China has presented numerous working papers to the Conference on Disarmament (CD), calling for a formal NSA pledge by all the nuclear powers. Since 1964, China has adhered to a no-first-use (NFU) pledge which is a from of a negative security assurance but not and inclusive as an NSA. In April 1995, China in reiterated its unconditional NSA pledge and - in conjunction with the other nuclear powers - issued its first formal PSA statement, indicating that it would come to the aid of any non-nuclear weapons state subject to nuclear attack and pursue appropriate punishment against the aggressor state, under the auspices of the UN Security Council. China's PSA policy is also contained as part of UN Security Council Resolution 984.
Negative Security Assurances (NSAs):
China's stated policy with regard to NSAs is as follows:
"China undertakes not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon States or nuclear-weapon-free zones at any time or under any circumstances. This commitment naturally applies to non-nuclear-weapon States Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons or non-nuclear-weapon States that have undertaken any comparable internationally binding commitments not to manufacture or acquire nuclear explosive devices." ["China's National Statement On Security Assurances," 5 April 1995.]
China's NSA is unlike the other P-5 nations because it is unconditional. The NSAs of the other P-5 are void if a non-nuclear weapon state is acting in concert with or allied with a nuclear-weapon state; the US places several other conditions on its NSA and these are detailed below. Yet, following the nuclear tests in South Asia in May 1998, it is not clear whether China's NSA applies to India and Pakistan given their status as de-facto nuclear weapon states. Prior to May 1998, Chinese officials specifically stated that China's NSA applied to both India and Pakistan even though they were not NPT signatories. China's NSA currenlty applies to Israel. Also, in 1996 and 1999, China issued NSAs guaranteeing that it will not use nuclear weapons against Taiwan.
US Negative Security Assurances (NSAs):
In contrast to China's policy, the US declamatory policy regarding NSAs is as follows:
China offered PSAs for the first time in April 1995. Beijing's stated policy with regard to PSAs is as follows:
"China, as a Permanent Member of the Security Council of the United Nations, undertakes to take action within the Council in order that the Council take appropriate measures to provide, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, necessary assistance to any non-nuclear-weapon State that comes under attack with nuclear weapons, and impose strict and effective sanctions on the attacking State. This commitment naturally applies to any non-nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons or any non-nuclear-weapon State that has undertaken any comparable internationally binding commitments not to manufacture or acquire nuclear explosive devices, in case of an aggression with nuclear weapons or the threat of such aggression against the State;
The positive security assurance provided by China, as contained [above], does not in any way compromise China's position [on pushing for an international agreement on non-first-use and negative security assurances] and shall not in any way be construed as endorsing the use of nuclear weapons." ["China's National Statement On Security Assurances," 5 April 1995.]
China's PSAs are included in both its national statement on security assurances and in UN Security Council resolution 984, of 11 April 1995, which harmonized PSAs with the other four nuclear weapon states (United States, Russia, France, and United Kingdom). China has also provided specific NSAs to Kazakstan and Ukraine (in February 1995 and March 1996, respectively). In addition, China has ratified the relevant protocols of the Tlatelolco (protocol 2--1974) and Rarotonga (protocols 2 and 3--1988) Treaties, and signed protocols 1 and 2 of the Pelindaba Treaty (1996), providing legally-binding NSAs to the signatories of those NWFZs (Latin America, the South Pacific, and Africa).
China has continued to press for a formal NSA treaty among the five declared nuclear powers, but as of yet no such agreement has been reached. China pushed for the inclusion of an article on NSAs in the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) during its negotiation, but this effort was ultimately unsuccessful.
[Sources: UNIAR (Kiev), 4 March 1996, in "Ukraine: China Offers Security Guarantee As Nuclear-Free State," FBIS-SOV-96-044, 4 March 1996; Yan Xuetong, Xiandai Guoji Guanzi (Beijing), 20 August 1995, pp. 23-38; Reuter (Beijing), 8 February 1995, in Executive News Service, 8 February 1995; "Kazakhs Win Nuclear Pledge," Financial Times, 9 February 1995, p. 6; Walter C. Clemens, Jr., "China," in Richard Dean Burns, ed., Encyclopedia of Arms Control and Disarmament, Vol. 1, p. 62. Jane's Defense Weekly, 15 September 1999. p. 36.]
Key statements/documents related to China and security assurances:
For more information on China's nuclear declaratory policy, see:
This material is produced independently for NTI by the Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of and has not been independently verified by NTI or its directors, officers, employees, agents. Copyright © 2003 by MIIS.