NEW YORK: The UN Security Council on Friday (Saturday in Manila) adopted a US-led resolution calling for swift global implementation of a 20-year-old treaty banning tests of nuclear weapons.
“Our action today can give people everywhere [hope]that a world without nuclear weapons might actually be possible and that we’re going to do everything responsible in our capacity to be able to make that day a reality,” US Secretary of State John Kerry said before the vote was cast.
He said the adoption also signalled that “we will remain committed to moving in the direction of ending the threat of nuclear war.”
The resolution was adopted with 14 votes in favor and one abstention by Egypt, whose opposition was linked to the absence of any commitment to further cut down the number of nuclear warheads.
The United States, although it has signed but not ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, has been pressing for adoption of the resolution to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the CTBT’s opening for signature on Sept. 24, 1996.
The resolution urges all states that have not signed or ratified the treaty, “to do so without further delay” and encourages state signatories to “promote the universality and early entry into force.”
The treaty has reached near universality, with 183 countries having signed it. One hundred and sixty six states have also deposited their instruments for ratification.
Myanmar became the 166th state to do so with Aung San Suu Kyi signing in New York on Sept. 21 following Swaziland.
Besides the US, China is the other permanent Security Council member to have signed but not ratified the pact.
While North Korea, India and Pakistan have never signed it, Egypt, Iran and Israel have signed, but not ratified it.
The text also emphasizes that such moratoria are “an example of responsible international behavior that contributes to international peace and security.”
Although the last century saw more than 2,000 tests, only North Korea has conducted tests in the 21st century. Pyongyang claimed its latest test earlier this month was the largest to date.
“North Korea’s latest nuclear test is a challenge to this Council’s leadership,” Kerry said. “It is a dangerous and reckless act of provocation, which we have to summon a determined and effective answer to.”
Egypt, along with Senegal and Venezuela, had aired objections in the last stages of the negotiations on the text before its adoption, but only Egypt wound up abstaining from it in the end.
During the drafting process, an earlier reference to Chapter 7 of the UN charter—which enables military or nonmilitary action to be used to enforce the resolution—was dropped.
Egypt’s Vice Minister of Multilateral Affairs, Hisham Badr, explained in his remarks that the resolution was “flawed and ill-suited” to be addressed in the Security Council and that its contribution to the nuclear disarmament regime was “minimal and ineffective”.
Although the US signed the CTBT under US President Bill Clinton, the Senate did not ratify it in 1999. Despite incumbent President Barack Obama’s best efforts to push it through, he has not yet been able to do so. As his term winds down there is little hope that it would be approved.
Obama has long been associated with moves toward eliminating nuclear weapons when he first laid out his vision in a landmark speech in Prague in 2009. Since then, he became the first sitting US president to visit Hiroshima, a city devastated by the world’s first atomic bombing 71 years ago.
The text also welcomes voluntary information sharing on the “status of completing the construction” of facilities that are part of the international monitoring system. It also invites the CTBT provisional technical secretariat “to provide a report” to all state signatories within 180 days of the resolution’s adoption.