"No one can solve this problem alone, but together we can change things for the better." 

– Setsuko Thurlow
Hiroshima Survivor
June 6, 2016
Alicia Sanders-Zakre

The Nuclear Ban Treaty and the CTBT

The new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) includes a provision prohibiting nuclear testing but some questions have emerged about the relationship of the new treaty to the CTBT. While some claim that prohibiting nuclear testing in the TPNW would strengthen the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) by further reinforcing the global moratorium on nuclear testing, others argue that it could undermine the CTBT by creating inconsistencies in between the two treaties. Many TPNW advocates assert that since the nuclear ban plays a normative role, the inclusion of a prohibition of...

5 Myths on Nuclear Diplomacy with North Korea

The struggle to address the nuclear and missile threat posed by North Korea has been underway for more than a quarter-century, but public and policymaker attention to the problems has been episodic and often superficial, leading to the emergence of misperceptions and myths about past efforts and current prospects for addressing the threat. The following is a review of some of the most common myths about past U.S. efforts to address the threat and how the United States and its allies can halt and reverse North Korea’s nuclear and missile pursuits in the future. Myth 1. Diplomacy with North...

Nuclear Ban Approved, Now What?

News Date: 
July 12, 2017 -04:00

Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty Adopted

July/August 2017
By Alicia Sanders-Zakre

The formal adoption of the first legally binding global treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons possession, use, and threat of use was greeted with widespread approval from the international community, with the exception of the nuclear-weapon states and their defense treaty allies who dismissed the accord as irrelevant and even potentially dangerous.

Delegates and observers applaud at the United Nations moments after the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is adopted July 7 by a vote 122 in favor, 1 against, and 1 abstention.  (Photo credit: Alicia Sanders-Zakre/Arms Control Association)On July 7, 122 non-nuclear-armed states voted to adopt the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons following four weeks of talks at a special UN conference. Supporters hailed it as a new tool to strengthen norms against nuclear weapons use and said it can, in tandem with the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), discourage other states from seeking to obtain nuclear weapons and spur further action on nuclear disarmament.

“After many decades, we have managed to sow the first seeds of a world free of nuclear weapons,” declared Costa Rican Ambassador Elayne Whyte Gómez, president of the conference.

The Netherlands, the only NATO ally participating, voted against the treaty, and Singapore abstained. No nuclear-armed state participated, and the United States actively opposed the effort. The treaty has provisions governing how nuclear-weapon states could join the treaty, verifiably giving up their arsenals, although treaty supporters recognized that is not likely to happen anytime soon.

Even so, the treaty, which opens for signature when the UN General Assembly convenes in September, represents a powerful international statement at a time of renewed anxieties over potential nuclear weapons use. Dell Higgie, New Zealand’s ambassador for disarmament,  applauded the “strong and balanced treaty” in a July 8 email to Arms Control Today, commenting that the negotiations “put nuclear disarmament and the humanitarian spirit in the spotlight again.”

The negotiations were authorized in December 2016 by the UN General Assembly, which called for a “legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination.” Such talks had been sought by states and disarmament advocates long frustrated by what they regard as the nuclear-weapon states’ lack of progress on their existing NPT disarmament obligations, by the growing risk of intentional or accidental nuclear weapons use, and by the recognition of the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of a nuclear detonation. (See ACT, June 2017.)

“We hope that today marks the beginning of the end of the nuclear age,” Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, said in a July 7 statement.

The effort and outcome united individuals such as Setsuko Thurlow, a survivor of the U.S. bombing of Hiroshima, and former U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry, who oversaw the U.S. nuclear force under President Bill Clinton.

Thurlow, who has spent her lifetime advocating nuclear abolition, brought many participants to tears as she called on them to “pause for a moment to feel the witness of those who perished in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.” Perry, who now warns of a nuclear abyss, applauded the treaty as “an important step towards delegitimizing nuclear war as an acceptable risk.”

“Though the treaty will not have the power to eliminate existing nuclear weapons, it provides a vision of a safer world,” Perry said in a July 7 statement.

A note of discord emerged as the negotiations concluded. The Netherlands called for a vote, instead of allowing adoption by consensus. The Dutch delegates explained that the treaty was incompatible with its obligations as a NATO member, had provisions that are not verifiable, and could undermine the NPT. Singapore abstained after provisions it sought were not adopted.

Outside the negotiation room, opposition was more stark. In a joint statement on July 7, the United States, the United Kingdom, and France strongly rejected the “purported ban” that they said will not result in “the elimination of a single nuclear weapon” since it fails to address the security concerns “that continue to make nuclear deterrence necessary.”

“We are disappointed at the ban negotiations, for the proposed treaty will be ineffective at best and may in fact be deeply counterproductive,” Chris Ford, special assistant to the president and senior director for weapons of mass destruction and counterproliferation on the U.S. National Security Council, said in a July 10 email to Arms Control Today. “We hope, however, that the more thoughtful of its supporters will join us in seeking genuinely effective measures related to ending nuclear arms races and fulfilling the objectives of the NPT.”

Ford said the Trump administration is engaged in “efforts to reduce nuclear dangers worldwide,” including through initiatives to strengthen the NPT; secure or eliminate nuclear materials “that might otherwise fall into the hands of terrorists and other rogue actors;” improve nuclear safety; counter threats to nuclear facilities; improve crisis communications between nuclear powers to reduce the risk of nuclear accident or miscalculation; and promote and maintain strategic stability through diplomatic engagement and “effective arms control.”

This agenda “includes a commitment, consistent with the NPT, to seeking to ease tension and strengthen trust between states in ways that will help reduce nuclear dangers and offer the best hope of fulfilling the NPT’s objectives,” he said.

Treaty Provisions

The treaty has a 24-paragraph preamble acknowledging the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons use and the value of existing international disarmament agreements, including the NPT, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and nuclear-weapon-free-zone agreements, as well as the right of states-parties to peaceful nuclear energy applications.

States-parties are prohibited to use, threaten to use, develop, produce, manufacture, acquire, possess, stockpile, transfer, station, or install nuclear weapons or assist with any prohibited activities. Non-nuclear-weapon states are required to have, at a minimum, a comprehensive safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

A state-party must declare, when joining the treaty, whether it has eliminated a previous nuclear weapons program, currently has nuclear weapons, or holds anther country’s nuclear weapons on its territory. In the latter case, it must remove them when it signs the treaty.

A nuclear-weapon state can accede to the treaty and eliminate its nuclear weapons in one of two ways: it can join the treaty and then destroy its nuclear weapons, or destroy its nuclear weapons and then join the treaty. States that “destroy and join” must cooperate on verification with a “competent international authority” to be designated in the future. States that “join and destroy” must immediately remove nuclear weapons from operational status and submit a time-bound plan for their destruction within 60 days of joining the treaty.

The treaty requires any current or former nuclear weapons state that seeks to join the treaty to conclude a safeguards agreement with the IAEA to verify that nuclear materials are not diverted from peaceful to weapons purposes. The treaty also obligates states-parties to provide victim assistance and environmental remediation to those affected by nuclear weapons use and testing.

Biennial meetings of states-parties will address implementation and other measures. Review conferences will be held every six years. The treaty enters into force 90 days after the 50th state ratifies it.

Issues During Negotiations

The treaty underwent significant revisions during two sessions of often constructive but at times contentious negotiations. Language on declarations, safeguards, and treaty accession by nuclear-weapon states was the most heavily revised, largely for precision and clarity.

The biggest debates centered on whether to include controversial language on prohibitions and strengthening safeguards re­quirements. Whyte Gómez chose not to incorporate contested proposals into the final text in order to conclude a treaty with broad support. The failed measures include a proposal supported by Cuba and Iran for additional prohibitions on financing and transit of nuclear weapons, which Brazil and Mexico opposed. Sweden and Switzerland pushed for stronger safeguards requirements, specifically a reference to the IAEA Model Additional Protocol, but Brazil opposed making mandatory a previously voluntary agreement.

There was a last-minute debate on July 5 about removing the clause that permits withdrawal from the treaty, which Whyte Gómez ultimately decided to retain.

The Work Ahead

Supporting states hailed the achievement, even as many dele­gates acknowledged the treaty is only a step toward nuclear disarmament. The treaty “lays the foundation,” but adoption is “just the beginning,” Ambassador Thomas Hajnoczi, Austria’s permanent representative to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said in a statement after the vote.

The negotiators agreed to set 50 ratifying states as the threshold for the treaty’s entry into force, but they recognized the accord will have greater normative weight with the more states that join. Although most of the 122 states that voted to approve the treaty will likely sign this year, the ratification process will be more time consuming, especially if the major nuclear-armed states seek to dissuade key states from ratifying.

Under the terms of the accord, states-parties are obligated to press other states to “accept, approve or accede to” the treaty with a “goal of universal adherence.” Brazil was among those to hint at the challenge of reaching that goal, urging “a continued dialogue with those that did not join this treaty, including those with nuclear weapons.”—ALICIA SANDERS-ZAKRE

Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty Adopted

China Deploys Sea-Based Nuclear Force

China has put in place its “first credible, sea-based nuclear deterrent” with the deployment of JL-2 submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), according to the U.S. Defense Department. China is also strengthening other aspects of its nuclear forces with the deployment of a new intermediate-range ballistic missile and development of a long-range strategic bomber “that officials expect to have a nuclear mission,” according to the department’s May 15 report to Congress titled “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2017.”

The report, an annual requirement, indicates that China deployed the JL-2s in the past year. It states that China’s four operational JIN-class nuclear submarines “are equipped with” up to 12 JL-2s, while the 2016 report had stated that submarines “will eventually carry” them. The SLBMs have a range of 7,200 kilometers, according to the 2016 report. The Defense Department report also stated that China has deployed a new intermediate-range ballistic missile, the DF-26, which was first unveiled in a September 2015 parade. It could reach U.S. bases in Guam. People’s Liberation Army Air Force Gen. Ma Xiaotian announced in September 2016 that China was developing a new generation of long-range bomber, which observers expect to debut sometime around 2025, according to the new report. The bomber is expected to employ stealth technology, according to the report.—ALICIA SANDERS-ZAKRE

China Deploys Sea-Based Nuclear Force

Banning the Bomb—A Blog of the Nuclear Weapons Prohibition Talks

Alicia Sanders-Zakre will be tweeting and blogging throughout the Nuclear Weapons Prohibition Talks at the United Nations. Follow her real-time updates at twitter.com/azakre . Second Negotiating Session: June 15-July 7, 2017 UN Adopts Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons July 7, 2017 Today by a vote of 122-1 with 1 abstention, states adopted a historic treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons at the United Nations in New York. The Netherlands voted against the treaty and Singapore abstained. Before adopting the treaty, Ambassador Elayne Whyte Gomez declared that “after many decades, we have managed to...

Senate Puts Trump’s Saudi Arms Sales Plans on Notice


For Immediate Release: June 13, 2017

Media Contacts: Jeff Abramson, senior fellow (646) 527-5793; Daryl G. Kimball, executive director (202-463-8270 x107)

(Washington, D.C.)—Congressional votes to block major arms deals are very rare, but today a substantial, bipartisan group of 47 Senators voted to support S.J. Resolution 42, a resolution of disapproval to transfer U.S. precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia, which is waging a controversial military campaign in Yemen. The close vote was a rebuke of Trump’s Middle East policy. In the final tally, 47 Senators voted for full consideration of the resolution, while 53 rejected that step.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis meets with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, April 19, 2017. DoD photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. BrantleyThe growing opposition to the roughly $500 million sale indicates that President Trump will face tough resistance should he try to move forward with other elements of the still mostly undefined $110 billion arms package he announced last month to Saudi Arabia.

“The Senate’s bipartisan stand today against the sale of precision guided munitions to Saudi Arabia puts the Trump administration on notice that their approach is off target,” said Jeff Abramson, nonresident senior fellow at the Arms Control Association.

“The United States should not be sending more weapons into an unwinnable conflict and into the hands of a country that uses U.S. weapons against civilian targets. Instead, the Trump administration should use its influence to find a political solution to the disastrous war in Yemen, which has led to a massive humanitarian crisis,” Abramson added.  

“Current U.S. conventional arms transfer policy includes the goal of ‘Ensuring that arms transfers do not contribute to human rights violations or violations of international humanitarian law.’” Abramson noted.

“With today’s vote, the Senate is sending a strong message that U.S. arms transfers should not go to states that target civilians and violate human rights.”

Additional resources

  • “Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain Should Be Rejected,” Arms Control Association Issue Brief, Volume 9, Issue 3, May 2017.
  • “Defiant Congress Sparks Showdown With Trump Over Saudi Arms Deal,” Arms Control Today, June 2017.


The Arms Control Association is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing authoritative information and practical policy solutions to address the threats posed by the world's most dangerous weapons.


Senate Puts Trump’s Saudi Arms Sales Plans on Notice

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Old Disputes Cloud NPT Review

June 2017

By Alicia Sanders-Zakre

As a review cycle began for the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), old divisions quickly re-emerged that will challenge efforts to reach a successful outcome at the 2020 review conference of states-parties to the NPT.

Diplomats at the initial UN meeting to prepare for the review conference voiced support for a number of disarmament and nonproliferation initiatives, but stumbled on familiar obstacles, namely the pace of disarmament and how to advance the initiative for a zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the Middle East.

Izumi Nakamitsu, UN undersecretary-general and high representative for disarmament affairs, addresses the NPT preparatory committee meeting in Vienna, as Ambassador Henk Cor van der Kwast of the Netherlands, the committee chairman, looks on. (Photo caption: Agata Wozniak/ UNIS Vienna)The 2020 review conference assumes additional importance following the failure of the 2015 review conference to produce a consensus document and the growing frustration of the non-nuclear-weapon states at the lack of action by nuclear powers, particularly the United States and Russia, to deliver on their legally binding disarmament obligations under the 1968 treaty. A second consecutive failure would risk weakening the global nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation regime, including efforts to block nuclear weapons activities by Iran and North Korea.

The May 2-12 preparatory committee meeting, chaired by Henk Cor van der Kwast of the Netherlands, is the first of three conferences leading up to the 2020 review conference. “At the start of a review cycle, one is almost under an obligation to be positive—to see the glass, at least, as half-full,” Dell Higgie, New Zealand’s ambassador for disarmament, told the meeting May 2, while adding, “To suggest that optimism should be the order of the day is not, however, to minimize the challenges we face.”

The next preparatory committee meeting will take place in Geneva in 2018 and will be chaired by Adam Bugajski, Poland’s representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The review conference likely will be chaired by Rafael Grossi, Argentina’s ambassador to Austria and to international organizations in Vienna.

The preparatory committee discussions covered the three pillars of the NPT: nuclear disarmament, nonproliferation, and nuclear energy. On many issues, there was general agreement.

Many states expressed support for convening a panel of experts on a fissile material cutoff treaty; continuing implementation of the nuclear deal involving Iran; IAEA safeguards, including comprehensive safeguard agreements and the IAEA Model Additional Protocol; the right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy under Article IV of the treaty; and the entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which was specifically endorsed in a joint appeal by Japan, Kazakhstan, and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization.

The preparatory committee also was united in condemning North Korea’s continued nuclear weapons and missile testing. “Such brazen disregard for international norms and binding obligations is unprecedented in the history of the NPT,” said South Korean Ambassador Kim In-chul on May 8.

The U.S. priority was to show international resolve against North Korea’s nuclear weapons development, Robert Wood, U.S. ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament, said at an April 28 news conference. Sixty-two states condemned North Korea’s actions in a statement submitted May 10 by France and South Korea. The declaration, however, did not deter North Korea from conducting another launch test of an intermediate-range ballistic missile on May 14.

The pace of disarmament and how to establish a WMD-free zone in the Middle East—the two issues that have obstructed past NPT review cycles—continued to elicit disagreement in the 2017 preparatory commission. Many non-nuclear-weapon states consider that the nuclear disarmament pace is too slow, alleging that nuclear-weapon states have failed to fulfill obligations under Article VI of the NPT 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.” Nuclear-weapon states contend that they have made progress on disarmament in the past decades and advocate a “step-by-step” approach of pursuing practical disarmament initiatives dependent on the security environment.

Ban Treaty

The tensions on this issue are playing out in UN negotiations, involving about 130 countries, which aim to complete a treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons by July 7 (see "Ban Talks Advance With Treaty Draft", this issue). The nuclear-weapon countries and most U.S. defense treaty allies are boycotting the negotiations.

The division on the ban treaty was particularly apparent during the critiques of the chairman’s summary on the final day of the conference. Strong supporters of the ban treaty, such as Ireland and South Africa, regretted that the issue did not feature more prominently, while the United Kingdom explained that it could not support the summary due to its reference to the nuclear ban.

U.S. Ambassador Robert A. Wood, U.S. permanent represen­tative to the Conference on Disarmament, presents the U.S. statement May 2 at the NPT preparatory committee meeting in Vienna. (Photo caption: U.S. Mission to International Organizations in Vienna)Russia also rejected the ban negotiations. “The conceptual framework of the negotiation process, which in effect ignores the strategic context and addresses the elimination of nuclear weapons in isolation from existing realities, is unacceptable for us,” Russian Ambassador Mikhail Ulyanov said in a May 5 statement.

States were split on how to advance a WMD-free zone in the Middle East, which has been a sticking point among NPT states-parties since the 1995 review and extension conference, when they adopted a resolution calling for practical steps to adopt such a zone. At the 2010 review conference, NPT states-parties put forward five steps in the final document to achieve the WMD-free zone, including the convening of a conference in 2012 on the issue. Unable to reach agreement on an agenda for that conference, the conveners, which included Russia, the UK, and the United States, announced in November 2012 that the meeting, originally scheduled for December, would be postponed. (See ACT, December 2012.)

Disagreement over the WMD-free zone stymied the 2015 review conference. States-parties failed to pass a final consensus document because Canada, the UK, and the United States rejected text proposed by Egypt, which was reflected in the final document, calling for new deadlines to reach agreement on an agenda for advancing the Middle Eastern WMD-free zone. (See ACT, June 2015.) Egypt’s push to include this text in the final document caused a rift among Arab League members, many of whom disagreed with Egypt’s proposal.

The splintering of the Arab League continued into the 2017 preparatory committee, at which the Arab League did not present a unified statement. Egypt, Iran, and a group of 12 Arab League members, including Iraq and the United Arab Emirates, each offered separate working papers on advancing the WMD-free zone in the Middle East. Egypt’s working paper expresses concern over the lack of implementation of the 1995 Resolution on the Middle East and demands that the next review cycle call on Israel to join the NPT.

In its working paper, the group of 12 Arab League states, not including Egypt, also recommended that Israel join the NPT, but emphasized that a conference on the WMD-free zone should take place under the auspices of the three depositories of the treaty: Russia, the UK, and the United States. Russia also criticized the lack of progress toward a WMD-free zone in the Middle East and submitted its own working paper to advance the convening of a conference before the 2020 review conference on the issue.

‘Misguided Attempts’

The United States stated that the conditions necessary for a Middle Eastern WMD-free zone do not currently exist, adding that “misguided attempts to coerce an outcome, or to hold the NPT review process hostage, indicate a misunderstanding of the function and purpose of weapons-free zones.”

In a new development in the NPT review cycles, there were calls from many states for more gender equality in disarmament forums. Ireland submitted a working paper on the subject, and the European Union stated that “promotion of gender equality, gender consciousness and empowerment of women remains a key priority for the EU, including in the area of disarmament and non-proliferation.” Australia, in a May 10 statement, pointed out that there were too few female delegates at the preparatory committee. 

Old Disputes Cloud NPT Review

Ban Talks Advance With Treaty Draft

Updated June 13 to clarify Article 4 provisions for nuclear-weapon states that will have disarmed before the treaty’s entry into force for those states.

June 2017

By Alicia Sanders-Zakre

The first draft of a landmark treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons, released May 22, set the stage for pivotal efforts to conclude a treaty document by the July 7 deadline established by the UN General Assembly.

The draft by Elayne Whyte Gómez, Costa Rica’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva and president of the negotiating conference on the ban treaty, reflects the areas of broad agreement during the first round of negotiations in March at the United Nations in New York. It leaves out several controversial proposals that states will likely debate when talks resume June 15.

A computer displays the symbol of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) at the UN Conference to negotiate a nuclear weapons prohibition treaty in New York March 31. (Photo credit: Manuel Elias/UN Photo)The envisioned treaty reflects an historic effort to shift international norms against the acquisition, possession, and potential use of nuclear weapons. The international effort is pressed by non-nuclear-weapons states and rejected by nuclear-armed countries that see the ban as impractical and potentially destabilizing if it undermines nuclear deterrence.

The initiative is driven by growing recognition of the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, the rising risk of accidental or intentional nuclear use, and the frustration of many non-nuclear-weapon states at the slow pace of nuclear disarmament. The pace of disarmament was a critical point of contention at the May 2-12 meeting of preparatory committee for the 2020 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference, where many states alleged that nuclear-weapons states have failed to fulfill their NPT Article VI obligation to pursue negotiations in good faith towards complete disarmament.

Following the recommendation of the last of three open-ended working groups on disarmament, the UN General Assembly First Committee on disarmament voted in October 2016 to begin negotiations on a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons (see ACT, November 2016). During the last week of March, about 130 non-nuclear-weapon states engaged in the first round of negotiations (see ACT, May 2017).

In March, states agreed on many of the prohibitions in the draft, including on the acquisition, possession, stockpiling, use and transfer of nuclear weapons, as well as on assistance with any prohibited activities. The prohibition on testing was the most controversial element included in the draft text, in part because of debate over whether it might inadvertently undermine the existing Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Other contested prohibitions—on the threat of use of nuclear weapons, as well as on transit and financing—were left out pending further negotiations.

The text does not call for states-parties to adopt the stricter verification requirements embodied in the Inter-national Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Additional Protocol which some states, such as Sweden and Switzerland, advocated for in March.

The draft treaty outlines verification provisions for states that will have disarmed before the treaty’s entry into force for those states.

Verification of disarmament by any former nuclear-weapons state that does so before the treaty’s entry into force for it will be determined by an agreement between the state and the IAEA. This clause only pertains to states that possessed nuclear weapons after 2001, thereby exempting several post-Soviet states, including Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan, which dismantled their arsenals before that date.

In a so called non-paper, Whyte Gomez identifies a path for accession of nuclear weapons states to the treaty following the model of South Africa’s accession to the NPT; nuclear weapons states could dismantle their nuclear arsenals and then sign the treaty, accepting verification provisions under the treaty.

Ban treaty advocates hailed the draft as a clear and strong basis for a nuclear-weapons prohibition but treaty skeptics raised questions about the text’s uncertain relationship to existing nonproliferation treaties. In an effort to dispel concerns that the new treaty will contradict the NPT, the draft text declares that the ban treaty will not influence the “rights and obligations” of states under the NPT.

However, some experts claim the NPT allows for temporary and limited nuclear possession, and thus a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons would inherently infringe upon the NPT rights of nuclear-weapons states. Ban advocates counter that the NPT does not allow for the indefinite possession of nuclear weapons and therefore the two treaties are compatible.

Some are concerned that the prohibition of testing of nuclear weapons in the draft text does not include a reference to the CTBT’s International Monitoring System (IMS), a global network of sensors which detect nuclear explosions. Duplicating language from the CTBT, which bans nuclear testing, without referencing the IMS could undermine that treaty, they argue.

Concerns and criticisms will be aired when negotiators take up the draft text in the second round of negotiations. According to a timetable circulated in late March, the first two days will be dedicated to a general discussion of the draft. During the following week, states will examine the text thematically, with separate negotiating sessions devoted to the preamble, positive obligations, core prohibitions, implementation and institutional arrangements and universality and final provisions. Additional time is reserved for consultations. On June 23, states will determine the organization of the remainder of the negotiations.

The United States, along with most NATO allies, and other nuclear-weapons states are expected to continue to boycott the proceedings.

“Almost all the nuclear armed states put pressure on smaller countries to not participate, to not attend, and there will be even more pressure when the time for signing the treaty comes,” said Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, in a May 16 interview with Arms Control Today. “I think that is going to continue. It’s not going to get easier for us. But I don’t think it’s going to get easier for them to ignore the treaty either. It’s moving forward whether or not they like it.”


Draft Convention on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons: Key Elements


The preamble references the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons use, the suffering of victims of nuclear use and testing, international and humanitarian law, the UN Charter, the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

Article 1: Core Prohibitions

Article 1 prohibits acquisition, possession, stockpiling, use, transfer, testing, stationing, installment, and deployment of nuclear weapons and assistance with prohibited activities. The draft text does not include prohibitions on threat of use, transit, and financing of nuclear weapons, but states will debate whether to include them during the final round of negotiations.

Article 3 and Annex: Safeguards

Article 3 and the annex state that safeguards should be the same as required in connection with the NPT. States are not required to ratify an additional protocol to their safeguards agreement.

Article 4: Verification

Article 4 pertains to states-parties that had nuclear weapons after 2001 but will have eliminated them before the prohibition treaty enters into force for those states. These states must conclude an agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency to verify the elimination of their arsenals. This clause does not cover Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine, the former Soviet states that eliminated their arsenals before 2001.

Article 5: Other Disarmament Provisions

Article 5 suggests that other effective measures relating to nuclear disarm­ament that are not covered by Article 4 be considered in future meetings of states-parties or review conferences.

Article 6: Victim Assistance

Article 6 asserts that states-parties “in a position to do so” should provide assistance to individual victims of nuclear testing or use on their territory and that states that were victims of nuclear use or testing by other states should also receive assistance. Environmental remediation is included.

Article 9: Meeting of States-Parties

The first meeting of states-parties will take place within one year of entry into force and biennially thereafter.

Article 16: Entry Into Force

The ban treaty will enter into force 90 days after ratification by the 40th state.

Article 17: Reservations

No reservations to articles are allowed.

Article 18: Withdrawal

The treaty is of “unlimited duration,” but withdrawal is permitted and would take effect three months after the notice is received.

Article 19: Relationship to NPT

Article 19 states that the prohibition treaty does not impact the “rights and obligations” of states-parties to the NPT.

Nonpaper: Accession of Nuclear-Weapon States to the Treaty

The nonpaper submitted by Ambassador Elayne Whyte Gómez, who authored the draft treaty, presents a model for nuclear-weapon states to accede to the treaty: disarm first and then sign the treaty, referenced during the first round of negotiations as “South Africa-plus” because it is modeled after South Africa’s accession to the NPT. 

Ban Talks Advance With Treaty Draft



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