U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan expressed grave concern Thursday over the future of the nuclear nonproliferation treaty, saying it is facing a crisis and could collapse.

“The (Nonproliferation Treaty) regime faces a twin crisis — of compliance and of confidence,” Annan told an audience at the University of Tokyo in the afternoon during a ceremony in which he was conferred an honorary doctorate.

“The regime will not be sustainable if many more countries develop the most sensitive phases of the fuel cycle, and are equipped with the technology to produce nuclear weapons at short notice,” Annan said.

The U.N. chief especially singled out the nuclear programs of North Korea and Iran, as well as the extensive trafficking of nuclear technology by Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan. He voiced regret that two international meetings last year failed to strengthen the 1970 NPT, which is central to global efforts to keep atomic weapons in check.

India and Pakistan, which are not signatories of the treaty, both declared themselves nuclear powers in 1998 and North Korea pulled out of the NPT in 2003 and claimed last year to have nuclear weapons.

Most recently, Iran has threatened to quit the treaty, and maintained it has been enriching uranium.

“In essence, Iran needs to enable the International Atomic Energy Agency to lift the cloud of suspicion hovering over its nuclear activities,” Annan said.

He praised Japan, saying: “You have shown that a state does not need nuclear weapons to be normal. Nor does it need to be armed to the teeth in order to exercise influence.”

Annan arrived in Japan Tuesday on a four-day leg of a trip to that also includes visits to Austria, South Korea, China, Vietnam and Thailand.

During his stay, Annan repeatedly urged Japan, on one side, and South Korea and China, on the other, to improve their strained relations, saying they should make “bold gestures.”

The three nations “are all aware of what irritates, worries or provokes the other side,” Annan told said a news conference at the Japan National Press Club later Thursday. He did not say what the bold gestures might be.

When asked if he now thinks the U.S.-led war against Iraq to oust former President Saddam Hussein was right or wrong, Annan only said the situation had become more difficult than before the war.

“All are losers in a war,” he said.

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