U.N. Reaches Treaty to Ban Nuclear Weapons. Now What?

A photograph released by the North Korean state news agency in May is said to show the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un, in a white shirt, watching a weapons test at an undisclosed location. Mr. Kim is threatening a nuclear-tipped missile strike on American soil. [Credit: Korean Central News Agency, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images]

For the first time in the seven-decade effort to avert a nuclear war, a global treaty has been negotiated that proponents say would, if successful, lead to the destruction of all nuclear weapons and forever prohibit their use.

Negotiators representing two-thirds of the 192-member United Nations finalized the 10-page treaty this week after months of talks.

The document, called the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, was formally adopted on Friday at United Nations headquarters in New York during the final session of the negotiation conference.

It will be open for signature by any member state starting on Sept. 20 during the annual General Assembly and would enter into legal force 90 days after being ratified by 50 countries.

“The world has been waiting for this legal norm for 70 years,” said Elayne G. Whyte Gómez, Costa Rica’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva and chairwoman of the conference, which was broadcast live on the United Nations website.

Cheers and applause erupted among the delegates after the vote was tallied: 122 in favor and one against — the Netherlands, the only NATO member that participated in the conference. Singapore abstained.

The participants did not include any of the world’s nine nuclear-armed countries, which conspicuously boycotted the negotiations.

Some critics of the treaty, including the United States and its close Western allies, publicly rejected the entire effort, calling it misguided and reckless, particularly when North Korea is threatening a nuclear-tipped missile strike on American soil.

“We have to be realistic,” Nikki R. Haley, the American ambassador to the United Nations, said when the talks began in March. “Is there anyone who thinks that North Korea would ban nuclear weapons?”

In a joint statement released after the treaty was adopted, the United States, Britain and France said, “We do not intend to sign, ratify or ever become party to it.”

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SOURCE: NY Times, Rick Gladstone

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