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– General John Shalikashvili
former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Nuclear Weapons Ban Talks Begin
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April 2017

Defying opposition by the world’s nuclear powers, 115 non-nuclear-weapon states began discussing March 27 a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons. Meeting for five days at United Nations headquarters, delegates discussed elements to be included in the treaty’s preamble and core provisions. There was general agreement to reference the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons and existing legal frameworks. They agreed on several core prohibitions, including banning the use, possession, acquisition, transfer and deployment of nuclear weapons, although other prohibitions, such as on testing, financing and the threat of use of nuclear weapons, were more controversial.

The United States and other nuclear-weapon states boycotted the historic undertaking. “There is nothing I want more than a world with no nuclear weapons. But we have to be realistic,” Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the UN, said in a statement. Most U.S. treaty allies followed suit. Japanese Ambassador Nobushige Takamizawa said his country couldn’t join in the talks “in a constructive manner and in good faith.” However, the Netherlands, the only NATO member present at the opening of negotiations, agreed to participate, while emphasizing that the treaty would have to be compatible with the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

Treaty advocates, including Mexico, Austria, and Brazil, have expressed frustration at the lack of progress in the Conference on Disarmament and what they consider to be reluctance of nuclear-weapon states to fulfill NPT commitments on nuclear disarmament. Supporters of a ban include Pope Francis, former U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry, and many nonproliferation groups. The conference aims to adopt a treaty draft in the second round of negotiations June 15-July 7.