Finally, 71 years after the dropping of atomic bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the international community is ready to start negotiations on a new treaty banning nuclear weapons. Although this is a historical moment, it was very sad that Japan and the US opposed the UN resolution.
UN committee OKs nuclear arms ban resolution
A UN General Assembly committee has approved a resolution calling for a treaty to ban nuclear weapons.
Japan, the only country that has suffered atomic bombings, was among the countries that opposed it, along with nuclear powers including the United States.
The resolution was adopted on Thursday by a majority vote at the General Assembly’s First Committee on Disarmament.
The resolution submitted by about 50 non-nuclear weapons states calls for starting negotiations on a legally binding treaty in New York in March.
123 countries voted in favor, while 38 voted against. 16 countries abstained.
Among the nuclear powers, the United States and Russia opposed it. China and India abstained.
Japan voted against it. The country has been calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons, while under the US nuclear umbrella. But it said disarmament should be done in stages with the cooperation of nuclear and non-nuclear states.
Austrian disarmament ambassador Franz Josef Kuglitsch called the resolution the fruit of years of huge effort and conscience-building by many countries and civil society. Austria is one of the proponents of the resolution.
If adopted at a General Assembly session in December, treaty negotiations will start in March.
U.S., Japan oppose and China abstains as U.N. votes to launch talks on nuclear arms ban
UNITED NATIONS – A U.N. General Assembly committee on Thursday voted to launch negotiations on a new treaty banning nuclear weapons despite fierce opposition from the world’s nuclear powers.
A resolution presented by Austria, Ireland, Mexico, Nigeria, South Africa and Brazil was adopted by a vote of 123 to 38, with 16 abstentions, following weeks of lobbying by the nuclear powers for “no” votes.
The nonbinding resolution provides for negotiations to begin in March on the new treaty, citing deep concern over the “catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons.”
Four of the five U.N. Security Council nuclear powers — Britain, France, Russia and the United States — voted against the resolution, while China abstained, as did India and Pakistan.
Japan, which has long campaigned against the use of nuclear weapons, voted against it, as did South Korea, which is facing a nuclear threat from North Korea.
Opponents argued that nuclear disarmament should be addressed within negotiations on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, described the vote as a “historic moment” in the decades-long drive for a nuclear-free world.
“This treaty won’t eliminate nuclear weapons overnight. But it will establish a powerful, new international legal standard, stigmatizing nuclear weapons and compelling nations to take urgent action on disarmament.”
The measure is expected to go to the full General Assembly for a vote in late November or early December.
Although Japan voted against the resolution due to pressure exerted by the U.S., Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said Friday that Japan intends to join U.N. negotiations to outlaw nuclear weapons.
“At present, I hope to proactively join in the negotiations and firmly present our stance,” which stresses cooperation between nuclear and nonnuclear powers, Kishida told reporters, adding that the government as a whole will make the final decision.
Kishida said Japan opposed the draft resolution as it did not match the country’s stance to pursue a world free of nuclear weapons by “concrete and pragmatic measures” amid the growing threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear and missile development and the need for nuclear deterrence.
“The resolution further deepens the rift and encourages opposition” between countries possessing nuclear weapons and those that do not, Kishida said.
Japan also took note of the votes by other key countries in making the decision, Kishida said. All of the countries possessing nuclear weapons, including the United States, opposed the draft resolution, while North Korea voted in favor.
The resolution calls for talks to be held twice next year — the first round from March 27 to 31 and the second from June 15 through July 7 in New York — to negotiate a treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons.
Despite the U.S. and other nuclear powers’ objection to the motion, Robert Zuber, director of Global Action to Prevent War, a nongovernmental organization, is upbeat about its prospects.
“We believe that a ban treaty could help contribute to a robust international framework to which the nuclear weapon states could eventually accede,” he said.
But the decision by Japan, the only country to have ever suffered a nuclear attack, to vote against the draft disappointed some anti-nuclear campaigners.
The government is “still captured by a very old-fashioned idea on security. They still believe nuclear weapons are necessary for their own security. However, it is already clear that it is nuclear weapons that are posing a threat to global security and survival of human kind, as testified by many survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” said Akira Kawasaki, director of Peace Boat Hibakusha Project.
UN votes to start negotiating treaty to ban nuclear weapons
Australia votes with major nuclear powers against the resolution – including US, Russia and Israel – but 123 nations vote in favour
United Nations member states have voted overwhelmingly to start negotiations on a treaty to ban nuclear weapons, despite strong opposition from nuclear-armed nations and their allies.
In the vote in the UN disarmament and international security committee on Thursday, 123 nations were in favour of the resolution, 38 opposed and 16 abstained.
Nuclear powers the United States, Russia, Israel, France and the United Kingdom were among those that opposed the measure.
Australia, as forecast last week, and as a long-time dependant on the US’s extended nuclear deterrence, also voted no.
The resolution now goes to a full general assembly vote some time in December.
The resolution aims to hold a conference in March 2017 to negotiate a “legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination”.
Support for a ban treaty has been growing steadily over months of negotiations, but it has no support from the nine known nuclear states – the US, China, France, Britain, Russia, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea – which includes the veto-wielding permanent five members of the security council.
But Australia has been the most outspoken of the non-nuclear states.
During months of negotiations, Australia has lobbied other countries, pressing the case for what it describes as a “building blocks” approach of engaging with nuclear powers to reduce the global stockpile of 15,000 weapons.
Australia has consistently maintained that as long as nuclear weapons exist, it must rely on the protection of the deterrent effect of the US’s nuclear arsenal, the second largest in the world.
When he appeared before Senate estimates last week, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s assistant secretary, Richard Sadleir, forecast Australia’s rejection of the vote: “Consistent with the position to that we took to the open-ended working group (into nuclear disarmament) report, we will be voting no with respect to that resolution.”
Sadleir said Australia’s position on nuclear disarmament was “consistent and clear”.
“We do not support a ban treaty,” he said. “A ban treaty that does not include the nuclear weapons states, those states which possess nuclear weapons, and is disconnected from the rest of the security environment, would be counterproductive and not lead to reductions in nuclear arsenals.”
Professor Tilman Ruff, founding chair of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons and co-president of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, said the vote was a “historic step” for the world that “heralds an end to two decades of paralysis in multilateral nuclear disarmament”.
“The numbers are especially encouraging given the ferocious pressure on countries to vote no by the nuclear-armed states, who see that this will fundamentally challenge their continued possession of nuclear weapons,” he said.
“The treaty will fill the legal gap by which the most destructive of all weapons – nuclear weapons – are the only weapon of mass destruction to not yet be outlawed by international treaty.”
Ruff said Australia should reverse its opposition “and get on the right side of humanity”.
“Australia is doing dirty work for Washington, and is willing for US nuclear weapons to be used on its behalf, and potentially with its assistance,” he said.
“It is inconceivable that Australia would not eventually sign up to a treaty prohibiting the last to be banned and worst [weapons of mass destruction]. We’ve signed every other treaty banning an unacceptable weapon, and on some, like chemical weapons, we were a leader.”
Ruff said that given there were no nuclear disarmament negotiations under way or planned, a ban treaty was the only feasible path towards ridding the world of nuclear weapons available now.
The efficacy of a ban treaty is a matter of fierce debate.
Without the participation of the states that actually possess nuclear weapons, critics argue it cannot succeed. But proponents say a nuclear weapons ban will create moral suasion – in the vein of the cluster and landmine conventions – for nuclear weapons states to disarm, and establish an international norm prohibiting nuclear weapons’ development, possession and use.
Non-nuclear states have expressed increasing frustration with the current nuclear regime and the sclerotic movement towards disarmament.
With nuclear weapons states modernising and in some cases increasing their arsenals, instead of discarding them, more states are becoming disenchanted with the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and lending their support for an outright ban.