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UN adopts historic nuclear disarmament treaty

[JURIST] UN member states voted 122-1 Friday to adopt [UN News Centre report] the first ever multilateral legally binding treaty on nuclear disarmaments. The one vote against the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons [text, WORD] came from the Netherlands, while Singapore was absent at the conference. Among other things, the treaty prohibits 1) the developing, testing, production, manufacture, acquisition, possession, stockpiling, or transfer or receipt of nuclear weapons; 2) the use or threat to use nuclear weapons directly or indirectly; 3) the assistance, encouragement or inducement of anyone, or seeking assistance in any way from anyone to engage in any nuclear-weapons-related activity prohibited under the treaty; or 4) any stationing, installation or deployment of any nuclear weapons in the member state's territory or at any place under its jurisdiction or control. The treaty also requires declarations from member states concerning prior or current possession of nuclear weapons or nuclear weapons facilities, and a declaration that the concerned country will eliminate all such weapons and/or facilities before becoming a party to the treaty. The treaty also has various other provisions such as safeguards, environmental remediation, international cooperation and assistance, settlement of disputes, and withdrawal from the treaty. Calling the treaty "an important step and contribution towards the common aspirations of a world without nuclear weapons," Secretary General António Guterres [official website] hoped that it would encourage dialogue and cooperation in the international community in progressing toward complete nuclear disarmament. However, all nuclear-armed nations (China, France, India, North Korea, Russia, Pakistan, US and UK) and some of their allies boycotted the conference and stayed out of the negotiations. In a joint press statement, the US, UK and France stated that they "do not intend to sign, ratify or ever become party to" the treaty and that the treaty "clearly disregards the realities of the international security environment. ... 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 treaty will be open for signature for all member states in the UN Headquarters in New York on September 20 of this year, and will enter into force 90 days post ratification by a minimum of 50 countries.

Development and promotion of nuclear weapons programs and stockpiling of nuclear weapons continue to raise international concern. The UN General Assembly [official website] voted to begin [JURIST report] negotiations for this treaty in October, despite opposition votes from world leaders including the US, Russia and the UK. Toward the end of May, a UN panel released [JURIST report] the draft treaty above in Geneva. Last month, the UN Security Council [official website] decided to expand existing sanctions [JURIST report] placed on North Korea and applied those sanctions to 14 individuals and four organizations. In May, JURIST Guest Columnist and former State Department official James Rudolph discussed the consequences of waiting [JURIST op-ed] for North Korea to use its nuclear weapons. In November, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) [official website] Director General Yukiya Amano said that Iran has repeatedly failed [JURIST report] to keep its stockpile of heavy water below 130 metric tons. Heavy water [Britannica backgrounder] can be used for nuclear energy or for the development of nuclear weapons. In October, the International Court of Justice [official website] refused [JURIST report] to hear a claim by Marshall Islands that the world's nuclear powers failed to halt the nuclear arms race.

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