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Nukeless nations sign ban shunned by atomic powers

September 20, 2017

After years of talks and negotiations, 51 countries are ready to sign the Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty. Not a single country with nuclear weapons is expected to be among them.

A nuclear weapon test mushroom cloud
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres opened a signing ceremony on Wednesday for a ban on developing, testing, manufacturing, purchasing or possessing nuclear weapons.

He called the pact "an important step towards the universally held goal of a world free of nuclear weapons."

Passed on July 7, 2017, with 122 countries in favor, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, as the ban is officially known, is the first legally binding international treaty to totally ban nuclear weapons.

From the beginning, the treaty was met with strong opposition from nuclear-armed states, which boycotted negotiations. After the treaty was adopted in July, a joint statement from the United States, United Kingdom and France said the countries "do not intend to sign, ratify or ever become party to [the treaty]. Therefore, there will be no change in the legal obligations on our countries with respect to nuclear weapons."

No NATO member has ratified the agreement.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian reiterated his country's position Monday, describing the treaty as "wishful thinking" that is "close to irresponsible."Although North Korea was the only state with nuclear weapons to vote for starting initial treaty negotiations, the treaty is not supported by a single nuclear-armed state.

Brazilian President Michel Temer signs the nuclear weapons ban
Brazilian President Michel Temer was the first to sign the treatyImage: Getty Images/AFP/D. Emmert

The poignancy of this attempt at moving towards global peace is all the more stark coming a day after US President Donald Trump’s threats to totally destroy North Korea. The current global tension over Pyongyang's nuclear program is exactly why the ban is needed, according to some of its supporters.

"For decades, nuclear weapons have remained the only weapons of mass destruction not yet prohibited, despite their immense destructive power and threat to humanity," said Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. She added that with tensions growing between the United States and North Korea over the North's nuclear program, the need for the treaty is even greater.

At least 50 countries must sign and ratify the treaty in order for it to come into effect, with Brazilian President Michel Temer being the first to add his signature.

Read more: France's Macron seeks conciliatory tone while Donald Trump lashes out at UN

cl/sms (AP/AFP)