Magazine article Arms Control Today

Fifty States Sign Nuclear Weapons Ban

Magazine article Arms Control Today

Fifty States Sign Nuclear Weapons Ban

Article excerpt

The day after President Donald Trump used his first address to the UN General Assembly to denounce the Iran nuclear deal and to threaten to "totally destroy" North Korea, 50 countries signed a landmark treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons.

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was adopted July 7 at the United Nations in New York, with 122 non-nuclear-weapon states voting in favor, Singapore abstaining, and the Netherlands voting against. The nucleararmed states did not participate. (See ACT, July/August 2017.)

At the ceremony for the opening for signatures on Sept. 20, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres heralded the treaty as a "milestone" and "the first multilateral disarmament treaty in two decades."

Brazil was the first to sign, and Ecuador became the 50th signatory in the evening. By the end of the day, three signatories-Guyana, the Holy See, and Thailand-had also ratified it. The treaty enters into force once 50 states sign and ratify it. Three countries prominent during the treaty negotiations-the Marshall Islands, Sweden, and Switzerland- were among those absent from the list of initial signatories. (See ACT, September 2017.)

"We welcome the treaty as a long-awaited and essential step towards [nuclear weapons] elimination, and we do so foremost with the victims of these weapons in mind-those who died following the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, after later nuclear testing, and those who still suffer today," International Committee of the Red Cross President Peter Maurer declared at the ceremony. Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, emphasized the role of nuclear weapons survivors from Japan in pressing for the treaty.

Nuclear-armed states and NATO members strongly oppose the treaty. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Sept. 18 called the treaty "close to irresponsible" and said that it could undermine the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. …

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