122 na­tions back ban on nu­clear weapons

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - EDITH M. LEDERER

UNITED NA­TIONS — More than 120 coun­tries ap­proved the first-ever treaty to ban nu­clear weapons Fri­day at a U.N. meet­ing boy­cotted by all nu­clear-armed na­tions.

To loud ap­plause, Elayne Whyte Gomez, pres­i­dent of the U.N. con­fer­ence that has been ne­go­ti­at­ing the legally bind­ing treaty, an­nounced the re­sults of the vote — 122 na­tions in fa­vor, the Nether­lands op­posed, and Sin­ga­pore ab­stain­ing.

“We have man­aged to sow the first seeds of a world free of nu­clear weapons,” Whyte Gomez said. “We [are] … say­ing to our chil­dren that, yes, it is pos­si­ble to in­herit a world free from nu­clear weapons.”

“The world has been wait­ing for this le­gal norm for 70 years,” since atomic bombs were dropped on the Ja­panese cities of Hiroshima and Na­gasaki in Au­gust 1945 at the end of World War II, she said.

Set­suko Thur­low, who was a 13-year-old stu­dent in Hiroshima when a U.S. nu­clear bomb de­stroyed the city, said sur­vivors “have worked all our lives to make sure that no other hu­man be­ings should ever again be sub­jected to such an atroc­ity.”

None of the nine coun­tries known or be­lieved to pos­sess nu­clear weapons

— the United States, Rus­sia, the United King­dom, China, France, In­dia, Pak­istan, North Korea and Is­rael — is sup­port­ing the treaty. Many of their al­lies also did not at­tend the meet­ing.

In a joint state­ment, the U.N. am­bas­sadors from the United States, Bri­tain and France said their coun­tries don’t in­tend to ever be­come party to the treaty.

They said it “clearly dis­re­gards the re­al­i­ties of the in­ter­na­tional se­cu­rity en­vi­ron­ment” and “is in­com­pat­i­ble with the pol­icy of nu­clear de­ter­rence, which has been es­sen­tial to keep­ing the peace in Europe and North Asia for over 70 years.”

The 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,” the three am­bas­sadors said.

A ban that doesn’t ad­dress th­ese con­cerns “can­not re­sult in the elim­i­na­tion of a sin­gle nu­clear weapon and will not en­hance any coun­try’s se­cu­rity,” they said. “It will do the ex­act op­po­site by cre­at­ing even more di­vi­sions at a time when the world needs to re­main united in the face of grow­ing threats.”

The U.S., Bri­tain and France along with other nu­clear pow­ers in­stead want to strengthen the nearly half-cen­tury-old Nu­clear Non-Pro­lif­er­a­tion Treaty, con­sid­ered the cor­ner­stone of global non­pro­lif­er­a­tion ef­forts.

That pact sought to pre­vent the spread of atomic arms be­yond the five orig­i­nal weapons pow­ers — the U.S., Rus­sia, Bri­tain, France and China. It re­quires non-nu­clear sig­na­tory na­tions to not pur­sue atomic weapons in ex­change for a com­mit­ment by the five pow­ers to move to­ward nu­clear dis­ar­ma­ment and to guar­an­tee non-nu­clear states’ ac­cess to peace­ful nu­clear tech­nol­ogy for pro­duc­ing en­ergy.

All NATO mem­bers boy­cotted the treaty ne­go­ti­a­tions ex­cept for the Nether­lands, which has U.S. nu­clear weapons on its ter­ri­tory and was urged by its par­lia­ment to send a del­e­ga­tion

The Nether­lands’ deputy U.N. am­bas­sador, Lise Gre­goire-Van-Haaren, told del­e­gates her coun­try couldn’t vote for a treaty that went against its NATO obli­ga­tions, had in­ad­e­quate verification pro­vi­sions or that un­der­mined the Nu­clear Non-Pro­lif­er­a­tion Treaty — and “this draft does not meet our cri­te­ria.”

Whyte Gomez, Costa Rica’s U.N. am­bas­sador in Geneva, said 129 na­tions signed up to help draft the treaty, which rep­re­sents two-thirds of the 193 mem­ber states.

The treaty will be opened for sig­na­tures in Septem­ber and come into force when 50 coun­tries have rat­i­fied it, she said, and its lan­guage leaves the door open for nu­clear weapon states to be­come par­ties to the agree­ment.

The treaty re­quires of all rat­i­fy­ing coun­tries “never un­der any cir­cum­stances to de­velop, test, pro­duce, man­u­fac­ture, oth­er­wise ac­quire, pos­sess or stock­pile nu­clear weapons or other nu­clear ex­plo­sive de­vices.”

It also bans any trans­fer or use of nu­clear weapons or nu­clear ex­plo­sive de­vices — and the threat to use such weapons.

Iran, which signed an agree­ment with six ma­jor pow­ers in 2015 to rein in its nu­clear pro­gram, was among the coun­tries that voted for the treaty.

Other coun­tries that voted in fa­vor in­clude Swe­den, Switzer­land, Aus­tria, Brazil, South Africa, Egypt, Iraq, Qatar, Saudi Ara­bia, Indonesia and the Philip­pines.

Re­becca John­son of the Lon­don-based In­sti­tute for Dis­ar­ma­ment Diplo­macy, who spent the past decade help­ing to de­velop strat­egy for a treaty, called the vote “the first step to pre­vent a hand­ful of mil­i­taries hold­ing the world hostage with their nu­clear ar­se­nals.”

U.S. Am­bas­sador Nikki Ha­ley said on March 27 when talks be­gan on the treaty that “there is noth­ing I want more for my fam­ily than a world with no nu­clear weapons, but we have to be re­al­is­tic.”

She asked whether any­one thought North Korea would give up its nu­clear weapons, ar­gu­ing that Py­ongyang would be “cheer­ing” a nu­clear-ban treaty and Amer­i­cans and oth­ers would be at risk.


Costa Ri­can Am­bas­sador Elayne Whyte Gomez, pres­i­dent of the U.N. con­fer­ence on the nu­clear treaty, cel­e­brates Fri­day’s vote. “The world has been wait­ing for this le­gal norm for 70 years,” she said.

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