122 countries approve the first-ever treaty to ban nuclear weapons

World Today

Elayne Whyte Gomez Delegates give a standing ovation after a vote by the conference to adopt a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination, Friday, July 7, 2017 at United Nations headquarters. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

A total of 122 countries approved the first-ever treaty to ban nuclear weapons at the United Nations headquarter in New York on Friday.

None of the nine countries — China, the United States, Russia, Britain, France, India, Pakistan, DPRK and Israel — believed to possess nuclear weapons are supporting the treaty.

China, however, strongly maintains its no-first-use stance, and it will under no condition use its weapons to threaten non-nuclear-weapon states. It also claims that it reserves the right to possess its limited nuclear weapons as a strategy of self-defense.

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 U.S., Britain and France along with other nuclear powers instead want to strengthen the nearly half-century-old Nuclear Nonproliferation 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 NPT — 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.

Story by the Associated Press with information from CGTN America.