- NBR - The National Bureau of Asian Research

To Repair, Replace, or Re-imagine the NPT Regime: Lessons from Strategic Politics in Asia

Christopher A. Ford


Through the prism of Asian security affairs, this chapter examines the challenges facing the nuclear nonproliferation regime.

Main Argument:

The attitudes of Asian powers toward nonproliferation and disarmament vary widely, and thus there is no agreement upon fixing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Perspectives among states have diverged, impeding wholesale “renewal.” Nevertheless, the treaty’s animating ideals can still valuably inform policymaking.

The NPT is not synonymous with the nonproliferation regime, which is a broader web of overlapping and mutually reinforcing elements that share common inspiration.

Policy Implications:

  • Relaxing the conception of “the regime” and improvisationally promoting elements that reinforce and complement it can serve nonproliferation goals, notwithstanding the NPT’s problems.
  • Legally institutionalized and technology-focused approaches poorly address the subjective and context-dependent challenges of national security. Such rigidity retards adaptation. Rather than focusing on capability constraints and legal mechanisms at the expense of addressing underlying political challenges, a more balanced approach is needed.