India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel should join the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the global pact meant to limit the spread of atomic weapons, a senior U.S. official said on Tuesday.
Speaking on the second day of a two-week meeting of the 189 signatories of the pact, Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller also defended a U.S.-India civilian nuclear deal, which developing nations have complained rewards New Delhi for staying outside the NPT.
"Universal adherence to the NPT itself, including by India, Israel, Pakistan and North Korea ... remains a fundamental objective of the United States," Gottemoeller told the meeting, which hopes to agree on an agenda and plan to overhaul the treaty at a review conference next year.
Speaking to reporters later, she declined to say whether Washington would take any new steps to press Israel to join the treaty and give up any nuclear weapons it has. Israel neither confirms nor denies whether it has what arms control experts assume to be a sizable atomic arsenal.
The administration of President Barack Obama was encouraging all holdouts to join the treaty, she said.
Nuclear-armed India and Pakistan have never signed the treaty. North Korea withdrew from it in 2003 and tested a nuclear device in 2006.
At the NPT meeting, developing countries have criticized the endorsement of the U.S.-India nuclear agreement by the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group, an informal club of the world's top producers of nuclear-related technology.
The group agreed in September to lift a ban on nuclear trade with India, imposed after New Delhi's first nuclear test in 1974.
Delegates from poor nations complain that the endorsement was tantamount to rewarding India for remaining outside the treaty and secretly developing nuclear weapons. In contrast, they say, developing states are denied access to sensitive technology because they are often deemed proliferation risks.
No mention of Iran
Gottemoeller defended the agreement. "India is coming closer to the non-proliferation regime," she said.
She cited India's willingness to work with Washington in pushing for a binding international treaty that would prohibit the further production of bomb-grade nuclear material and by improving its nuclear export controls.
Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammad Ali Hosseini on Monday railed against the United States and what he said was its continued nuclear support for the "Zionist regime" (Israel). Western diplomats called this an attempt to divert attention away from its own nuclear program.
In failing to mention Iran even once in her speech, Gottemoeller broke from a tradition established by the administration of former President George W. Bush, which had used NPT meetings to criticise Iran and North Korea.
Gottemoeller said that Iran came up indirectly in her statement when she spoke of the need for "consequences for those breaking the rules or withdrawing from the treaty."
Obama has offered Iran's leaders direct talks on a wide range of issues, including its nuclear program. Tehran has reacted coolly to the U.S. overtures nearly three decades after Washington severed ties with Tehran during a hostage crisis.
The West suspects Iran is developing weapons under cover of a civilian atomic energy program, a charge Tehran denies.
Gottemoeller also reiterated commitments to disarmament that Obama made in a speech in Prague last month. She said the United States would continue its two-decade long moratorium on testing nuclear explosives and urged others to follow suit.