The United Nations began negotiations Monday on an international nuclear weapons ban, which is opposed in countries that already possess nuclear weapons.
Proponents of the ban see nuclear arms as a threat to global security and warn that the weapons can have catastrophic effects if used. More than 120 nations voted last year in favor of launching the treaty talks.
U.N. High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Kim Won-soo said nuclear weapons pose an “existential threat to humanity” and that the need for disarmament has never been so urgent.
“The endless pursuit of nuclear and non-nuclear strategic weapons will not create security, rather it has the potential to provoke new and destabilizing arms races and to exacerbate regional and global tensions,” he said.
The United States, Britain, France and about 20 other nations stood together Monday in opposition to the ban. Russia and China are also against the proposed treaty and are not taking part in the talks.
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley said Monday that officials have to be “realistic” about security threats and that they have a job to keep their people safe.
“As a mom, as a daughter, there is nothing I want more for my family than a world with no nuclear weapons, but we have to be realistic. Is there anyone that believes that North Korea would agree to a ban on nuclear weapons?” Haley asked.
Japan’s representative, Nobushige Takamizawa, also cited North Korea, saying the country’s recent nuclear and ballistic-missile threats are an “imminent security threat” to the region and the world.
Speaking alongside Haley, France’s U.N. Ambassador Alexis Lamek said that in the current context, “our countries continue to rely on nuclear deterrence for security and stability.”
British U.N. Ambassador Matthew Rycroft added that a nuclear weapons ban will not singularly improve international security and transparency among those countries with nuclear weapons, and that it will not address the technical challenges of verifying that governments are complying.
If U.N. members do agree to a nuclear ban treaty, it would only be binding on those countries that ratify it.
But Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, said Monday a ban would still be important.
“The treaty will have an impact, even on countries which fail to participate, by settling international norms of behavior and removing the political prestige associated with nuclear weapons,” Fihn said.