122 na­tions adopt treaty ban­ning nu­clear weapons

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

A global treaty ban­ning nu­clear weapons was adopted at the United Na­tions on Fri­day de­spite op­po­si­tion from nu­clear pow­ers Bri­tain, France and the United States which said it dis­re­gards the re­al­ity of deal­ing with in­ter­na­tional se­cu­rity threats such as North Korea. The treaty was adopted by a vote of 122 in fa­vor with one coun­try NATO mem­ber The Nether­lands - vot­ing against, while Sin­ga­pore ab­stained. None of the nine coun­tries that pos­sess nu­clear weapons - the United States, Rus­sia, Bri­tain, China, France, In­dia, Pak­istan, North Korea and Is­rael - took part in the ne­go­ti­a­tions or the vote.

Even Ja­pan - the only coun­try to have suf­fered atomic at­tacks, in 1945 - boy­cotted the talks as did most NATO coun­tries. Loud ap­plause and cheers broke out in a UN con­fer­ence hall fol­low­ing the vote that capped three weeks of ne­go­ti­a­tions on the text pro­vid­ing for a to­tal ban on de­vel­op­ing, stock­pil­ing or threat­en­ing to use nu­clear weapons. Within hours of its adop­tion, the United States, Bri­tain and France re­jected the treaty and said they have no in­ten­tion of join­ing it.

“This ini­tia­tive clearly dis­re­gards the re­al­i­ties of the in­ter­na­tional se­cu­rity en­vi­ron­ment,” said the UN am­bas­sadors from the three coun­tries. “This treaty of­fers no so­lu­tion to the grave threat posed by North Korea’s nu­clear pro­gram, nor does it ad­dress other se­cu­rity chal­lenges that make nu­clear de­ter­rence nec­es­sary,” they said in a joint state­ment. North Korea marked a wor­ry­ing mile­stone in its drive to de­velop nu­clear weapons when it tested its first in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­sile this week.

Nu­clear pow­ers ar­gue their ar­se­nals serve as a de­ter­rent against a nu­clear at­tack and say they re­main com­mit­ted to grad­ual ap­proach to dis­ar­ma­ment out­lined in the nu­clear Non-Pro­lif­er­a­tion Treaty (NPT). The decades-old NPT seeks to pre­vent the spread of atomic weapons but also puts the onus on nu­clear states to re­duce their stock­piles. Im­pa­tience how­ever is grow­ing among many non-nu­clear states over the slow pace of dis­ar­ma­ment as are wor­ries that weapons of mass de­struc­tion will fall into the wrong hands.

Led by Aus­tria, Brazil, Mex­ico, South Africa and New Zealand, 141 coun­tries joined in draft­ing the treaty that they hope will in­crease pres­sure on nu­clear states to take dis­ar­ma­ment more se­ri­ously. Ire­land, Swe­den and Switzer­land voted in fa­vor as did Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Kaza­khstan and many African and Latin Amer­i­can coun­tries. “We have man­aged to sow the first seeds of a world free of nu­clear weapons,” said Costa Rica’s am­bas­sador, Elayne Whyte Gomez, the pres­i­dent of the UN con­fer­ence that ne­go­ti­ated the treaty.

The In­ter­na­tional Com­mit­tee of the Red Cross hailed it as a “his­toric step towards dele­git­imiz­ing” nu­clear weapons and de­clared the adop­tion “an im­por­tant vic­tory for our shared hu­man­ity”. Wel­com­ing “an im­por­tant step” towards a nu­cle­ar­free world, UN Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral An­to­nio Guter­res said the treaty re­flects grow­ing “aware­ness of the cat­a­strophic hu­man­i­tar­ian con­se­quences” of a nu­clear war.

Dis­ar­ma­ment cam­paign­ers say the treaty will in­crease the stigma associated with nu­clear weapons and have an im­pact on pub­lic opinion. “The key thing is that it changes the le­gal land­scape,” said Richard Moyes, di­rec­tor of the Bri­tish-based or­ga­ni­za­tion Ar­ti­cle 36. “It stops states with nu­clear weapons from be­ing able to hide be­hind the idea that they are not il­le­gal. It is be­yond ques­tion that nu­clear weapons vi­o­late the laws of war and pose a clear dan­ger to global se­cu­rity,” said Beatrice Fihn, di­rec­tor of the In­ter­na­tional Cam­paign to Abol­ish Nu­clear Weapons. The treaty will be open for sig­na­tures as of Sept 20 and will en­ter into force when 50 coun­tries have rat­i­fied it.

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