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Entry into Force of Nuclear Weapons Prohibition Treaty a Step Forward
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For Immediate Release: January 21, 2021

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 107; Kingston Reif, director for disarmament policy, (202) 463-8270 ext. 104

(Washington, D.C.)—On Jan. 22, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons formally enters into force.

For the first time since the invention of the atomic bomb, nuclear weapons development, production, possession, use, threat of use, and stationing of another country’s nuclear weapons on a states party's national territory will all be expressly prohibited in a global treaty. The TPNW will also require states to provide assistance to those affected by nuclear weapons use and testing.

“We welcome the arrival of the TPNW, which marks a historic and very positive step forward in the decades-long effort to prevent nuclear war and create a world free of nuclear weapons,” said Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association.

“Rather than adopt the Trump administration’s misguided criticism of the TPNW as a threat to the NPT and repeat its clumsy attempt to get states un-sign the treaty, the incoming Biden administration should make it clear that the United States views the TPNW a good faith effort by the majority of the world’s nations to fulfill their own NPT-related disarmament obligations and help build the legal framework for the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons,” suggested former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation, Tom Countryman, who serves as chair of the board of the Arms Control Association.

“While the TPNW will not immediately eliminate any nuclear weapons, the treaty further delegitimizes nuclear weapons and strengthens the legal and political norm against their possession and use—and hopefully will compel renewed action by nuclear-weapon states to fulfill their commitment to the complete elimination of nuclear weapons,” Kimball said.

“The TPNW is a powerful reminder that for the majority of the world’s states, nuclear weapons — and policies that threaten their use for any reason — are immoral, dangerous, and unsustainable,” Kimball added.

The TPNW complements other nonproliferation and disarmament instruments, including the 1968 Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). The TPNW effort was also designed to fill a “legal gap” in the global nuclear nonproliferation regime.

While the NPT obligates non-nuclear-weapon states to foreswear nuclear weapons, it recognized the five original nuclear-weapon states — the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, and China — that already possessed them at the time the NPT was negotiated.

Article VI of the NPT obliges all of its 190 states parties to “pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.” But the NPT does not explicitly ban nuclear weapons, and some nuclear-armed states (India, Israel, and Pakistan) are not members of the NPT.

“This adjustment to the United States’ rhetorical approach to the TPNW, which can help begin to restore the U.S. reputation as a global leader and bridge-builder and it will improve Washington’s opportunity rally support around a meaningful consensus final document and action plan at the pivotal 10th NPT Review Conference in August 2021,” Countryman said.

“Now that the TPNW exists, all states—whether they are opponents, supporters, skeptics, or undecideds on the treaty—need to learn to live with it responsibly and find creative ways to move forward together to press for progress on their common challenge: preventing nuclear conflict and eventually ridding the world of nuclear weapons,” Countryman suggested.

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