In a historical vote a United Nations General Assembly committee voted to launch negotiations on a new treaty banning nuclear weapons. It was for the first time in its 71 year history that the global body voted to begin negotiations on a treaty to ban nuclear weapons.
The resolution was presented by Austria, Ireland, Mexico, Nigeria, South Africa and Brazil. The resolution was adopted by a vote of 123 to 38, with 16 abstentions, following weeks of lobbying by the nuclear powers for ‘no’ votes.
Four of the five UN 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. Israel voted No, surprisingly North Korea voted yes.
The non-binding resolution provides for negotiations to begin in March next year on the new treaty, citing deep concern over the “catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons.”
Opponents argued that nuclear disarmament should be addressed within negotiations on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
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.
The Obama Administration was in fierce opposition. It lobbied all nations, particularly its allies, to vote no. “How can a state that relies on nuclear weapons for its security possibly join a negotiation meant to stigmatize and eliminate them?” argued Ambassador Robert Wood, the U.S. special representative to the UN Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, “The ban treaty runs the risk of undermining regional security.”