The United States will attend a December conference in Vienna on the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons use, the State Department announced Nov. 7.
In a press statement, the department said the decision to attend the conference came after “a careful review of the agenda as well as discussions with the conference host Austria.” The United States “fully understands the serious consequences of nuclear weapons use and gives the highest priority to avoiding their use,” the statement said.
The Vienna gathering will be the third conference in the past two years focused on the medical and societal impact of nuclear weapons use. The first meeting took place in March 2013 in Oslo and brought together representatives from 127 governments. Delegations from 146 governments attended the second conference, held in Nayarit, Mexico, this February.
In the past, the United States has expressed concern that some conference organizers believe the meetings are intended to lead toward talks on a convention on the elimination of nuclear weapons. (See ACT, November 2014.) In the Nov. 7 statement, the State Department said, “[T]his conference is not the appropriate venue for disarmament negotiations or pre-negotiation discussions and the United States will not engage in efforts of that kind in Vienna.”
Nuclear-armed India and Pakistan attended the Oslo and Nayarit conferences, but the five countries recognized as nuclear-weapon states by the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty did not.
The United Kingdom announced on Dec. 2 that it would attend the Vienna meeting. It is unclear whether China, France, or Russia will do so.
The Vienna conference and the two that preceded it reflect the growing impatience of many non-nuclear-weapon states with what they characterize as the slow pace of progress toward nuclear disarmament.
The State Department said it views the Vienna meeting as “a useful opportunity to highlight the significant progress the United States has made and the resources it devotes to create conditions under which nuclear weapons are never again used.”