The Role of the United Nations Security Council in Curbing Arms Sales

The Opinion page article "Rethink Conventional-Arms Sales," June 4, properly notes the contribution that the United States has made to weapons proliferation. But the author neglects to discuss the only international forum for addressing this problem: the irregular meetings among the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. Together, Britain, China, France, Russia, and the United States account for more than four-fifths of all arms sales.

A number of meetings have occurred, the most recent of which took place in Washington. Although the five nations informally agreed in London last fall to notify one another about arms transfers to the Middle East, the Washington talks broke down because China refused to put this simple provision into practice.

The US deserves much but not all of the blame for the proliferation problem. The Bush administration had failed to win concessions from the Chinese yet hopes both to grant China most-favored-nation status and to sell Saudi Arabia a vast cache of weapons. This series of events forces one to conclude that far from truly caring about the conventional-arms issue, the US government remains satisfied with the status quo. Mark S. Sternman, Cambridge, Mass.

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published, subject to condensation, and none acknowledged. Please address them to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115.

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