UN Adopts Toothless Nuclear Weapons Ban

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Russ Read Pentagon/Foreign Policy Reporter
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A new measure banning nuclear weapons was adopted by the United Nations Friday, despite a boycott from the world’s nuclear powers.

The treaty, which calls for a ban on development, stockpiles and threatening to use nuclear weapons, was approved by 122 countries, with the Netherlands as the only “no” vote, and Singapore the only abstention. All nuclear armed states — the U.S., Russia, U.K., China, India, France, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel — boycotted negotiations leading up to the vote, essentially leaving the measure dead on arrival in terms of efficacy.

But that did not stop supporters from breaking into self-congratulatory applause and cheers following the treaty’s passage.


Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, previously disregarded the ban during negotiations in March.

“There is nothing I want more for my family than a world with no nuclear weapons,” said Haley. “But we have to be realistic. Is there anyone who thinks that North Korea would ban nuclear weapons?”

North Korea tested what is believed to be a prototype of an inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM) on Tuesday. ICBMs are generally only used as a vehicle to deliver nuclear warheads.

Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, the U.S. commander of NATO, warned against a nuclear ban while testifying before the House Committee on Armed Services in March.

“[A] nuclear weapons ban is just not realistic,” said the general.

Undeterred, supporters promoted the measure as a victory.

“We have managed to sow the first seeds of a world free of nuclear weapons,” said Costa Rican Amb. Elayne Whyte Gomez, who served as president of the negotiation conference, according to an Agence-France Presse report.

Despite good intentions, it is unclear how the UN plans to enforce the treaty on either signatories or those who have chosen to opt out. A draft of the treaty, dated July 6, provides for a vague forum in which disputes over the “interpretation or application” of the treaty can be peacefully negotiated. Article 12 also encourages non-signatories to sign later to achieve “universal adherence,” but little else.

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