With the NPT Conference wrapping up and struggling to find consensus, the timing of this missile test sends a very wrong message

The US is set to launch a Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California in the early morning hours of Wednesday, May 20, 2015.

The test launch comes three days before the end of the 2015 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference held in New York City at the United Nations. The purpose of this conference, held every five years and attended by the vast majority of the world’s nations as well as hundreds of NGOs from around the globe, is to assess and improve the implementation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) – the only binding commitment to nuclear disarmament in a multilateral treaty that exists. The hope is that the conference will produce concrete, actionable movement toward global nuclear disarmament.

At this year’s conference, dozens of nations strongly called for the United States and other nuclear-armed nations to take their nuclear weapons off high-alert status and to more urgently pursue negotiations for nuclear disarmament. Rather than heeding this reasonable call, the US has chosen this time to test a high-alert land-based missile.

Rick Wayman, Director of Programs and Operations at the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (NAPF), commented, “Conducting a nuclear missile test, particularly at this time, sends a clear signal to the international community that the United States believes it can continue to possess nuclear weapons indefinitely and with impunity.”

The Air Force Global Strike Command stated in their release that the ICBM test launch program is to validate and verify the effectiveness, readiness and accuracy of the weapon system. However, the timing of the test launch sends a clear message to the world that the US continues to rely on these weapons in its military policy.

David Krieger, President of NAPF, contends, “The officials at Vandenberg say the purpose of the test is to ‘validate and verify the effectiveness, readiness and accuracy of the weapons system.’ This means the effectiveness, readiness and accuracy of a weapons system capable of destroying civilization and the human species. Instead of launching missiles, the United States should be leading negotiations to rid the world of these weapons of mass annihilation.”

The 2010 NPT Review Conference produced an Action Plan that was, at that time, agreed to by all States Parties. Included in this plan was a promise from the US and other nuclear weapon states to “consider the legitimate interest of non-nuclear weapon States in further reducing the operational status of nuclear weapons systems in ways that promote international stability and security.”

Krieger further commented, “Clearly, this test launch of a Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile must be viewed as a blatant failure on the part of the US to reduce the operational status of its nuclear weapon systems. The test further undermines international stability, and US nuclear policy continues to threaten the security of American citizens and people throughout the world.”