To loud cheers Elayne Gomez, president of the UN conference that has been negotiating the legally binding treaty announced that 122 nations had signed on to the ban while the Netherlands was opposed and Singapore abstained. Gomez said: "The world has been waiting for this legal norm for 70 years" the time period from when the first atomic bombs were dropped by the US on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan in August of 1945. Gomez noted that this was the first multilateral nuclear disarmament treaty in more than 20 years. The treaty comes into effect 50 countries ratify it.
Last December UN member states voted overwhelmingly for a treaty that would ban nuclear weapons even though there was strong opposition from all the nations that have nuclear arms. Every one of them refused to even participate in the talks.All NATO members boycotted the negotiations except for the Netherlands which attended but voted against the resolution. The Netherlands has US nuclear weapons on its territory and parliament urged that a delegation be sent to the meetings.
Countries that ratify the treaty must "never under any circumstances to develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices." The transfer of nuclear weapons or nuclear explosive devices is also prohibited or even the threat to use nuclear weapons.
Richard Moyes, managing director of Article 36, a UK-based group that works to prevent harm from nuclear and other weapons, claimed that it was not plausible to believe that security could be secured by threatening to kill hundreds of thousands with nuclear weapons. He said we know that there have been errors of judgment, accidents, and also a degree of instability in leadership in the world.
The nine countries that are known to or believed to possess nuclear weapons are: US, Russia, UK, China, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel. None support the treaty or even sent delegates. The US and a number of other nuclear powers want to strengthen the nearly five-decade old Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty(NPT). This of course retains the nuclear club as the only countries allowed to have nuclear weapons. Israel was able to develop nuclear weapons in spite of the treaty. Neither Israel, Pakistan, nor India have signed the treaty. North Korea withdrew from it in 2003.
The NPT wss originally intended to prevent the spread of nuclear arms from the five original countries that had such arms: US, Russia, China, UK, and France. The agreement included a provision that the five powers move towards nuclear disarmament and provisions that would allow non-nuclear states access to nuclear technology in order to produce energy.
US ambassador Nikki Haley said when the nuclear talks began in March 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 if anyone thought North Korea would give up its nuclear weapons, stressing that North Koreans would be "cheering" a nuclear ban treaty — and Americans and others would be at risk."Of course North Koreans may feel at risk because the US has nuclear weapons. It might very well give up nuclear weapons if was assured the US and others opposed to it did. Yet the US has pointed to the escalation of North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programmes as a reason to retain its nuclear capability. One could argue that it is US nuclear capability that leads the North Koreans to believe that they also need to develop nuclear weapons in defense.
The UK did not attend the talks although it claims to support multilateral disarmament. Canada voted against the UN resolution to begin negotiations on the treaty. It did not send anyone to the negotiations. A leaked memo the US wrote to other NATO countries last year show why Canada and other NATO countries opposed the treaty and did not attend them except for the Netherlands. The memo said: "If negotiations do start, we ask allies and partners to refrain from joining them". Passage of the ban would increase pressure to meet disarmament obligations. The US and UK in particular are both planning to modernize their nuclear arsenals a move that is even against the old NPT.