United Nations member countries approve global nuclear treaty

A group marching for nuclear disarmament carries a banner during a protest in mid April in Berlin

A group marching for nuclear disarmament carries a banner during a protest in mid April in Berlin

A Springfield-based doctor, who helped push for a new global treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons and call for their total elimination, lauded the United Nations Friday for formally adopting the measure. Instead, supporters say they want nukes to be delegitimized and stigmatized in the same way chemical weapons and land mines have been.

Applause and cheers broke out in a United Nations 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. Among others, Abolition 2000 and, more recently, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons have worked with nearly no resources to bring pressure to make this happen, yet ironically now the work really begins.

Instead of scrapping their nuclear stocks, the United Kingdom and other nuclear powers want to strengthen the 1968 nuclear nonproliferation treaty (NPT), a pact that aims to prevent the spread of the weapons outside the original five nuclear powers, the US, Russia, Britain, France and China.

He said it could also influence whether the US and Russian Federation decide to renew the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty they reached in 2012 to reduce the number of deployed nuclear weapons when it expires in 2021.

All nuclear-armed nations boycotted the U.N. meeting, according to the Associated Press. Indeed, a leaked US government memo expresses hand-wringing that "the effects of a nuclear weapons ban treaty could be wide-ranging" and "delegitimize the concept of nuclear deterrence".

Of the nations participating in the discussion, only the Netherlands, who have USA nuclear weapons on their territory, rejected the treaty. "This is the beginning of the end of nuclear weapons". For example, we would not accept any claim that this treaty reflects or in any way contributes to the development of customary worldwide law. She notes that it took nearly 30 years for Non-Proliferation Treaty to become nearly universally recognized.

In contrast, the new ban treaty reframes the conversation by establishing a categorical prohibition: there are no safe hands for nuclear weapons. "This is a very clear statement that the global community wants to move to a completely different security paradigm that does not include nuclear weapons". It also prohibits the use or threat of use of these weapons, PTI reported.

Though nuclear-armed states remain adamant against joining the treaty, ban proponents cite precedents showing that positions can change. The process has been driven forward by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) working with civil society. The agreement commits to help the victims of the testing and use of nuclear weapons. It is time we disposed of these expensive white elephants.

"Accession to the ban treaty 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 statement said adding that the treaty also does not provide any solution to the "grave threat posed by North Korea's nuclear programme".

Matthew Bolton, Ph.D., is associate professor of political science at Pace University and director of its International Disarmament Institute.

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