Cautious and problematic negotiations at at U.N. nuclear weapons ban treaty meeting
Big debates at U.N. nuclear weapons ban treaty negotiations Alicia Sanders-Zakre and Steven Pifer Brookings, April 12, 2017
The negotiation at the United Nations on a treaty to ban nuclear weapons began on March 27 with a bit of drama: U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley gave a press conference explaining the U.S. decision to boycott the proceedings……
Some states advocated for the prohibition of the threat of use of nuclear weapons, claiming that it would serve to delegitimize nuclear deterrence doctrine. Others thought this prohibition was unnecessary, as the U.N. Charter already outlaws the threat of use of force. Moreover, a ban on the use of nuclear weapons would also ban the threat of their use.
Prohibiting the testing of nuclear weapons was also a contested question. Several states, including Kazakhstan, which continues to suffer the effects of having hosted the major Soviet nuclear test site, argued that testing should be explicitly prohibited. Others expressed concern that such a prohibition could come into conflict with the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty or undermine its entry into force.
The participating states came down differently on the issue of the transit of nuclear weapons. While some stressed that transiting nuclear weapons through the territory of signatory states should be illegal, others pointed out that verifying this provision would be very challenging.
As to institutional arrangements, the participating states were in general agreement that the treaty should include a provision for regular meetings of states parties and use existing international organizations such as the International Atomic Energy Agency and perhaps the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization to help implement verification measures.
While states generally agreed that the treaty should be universal, they disagreed on the process for accession of nuclear weapons states. Gaukhar Mukhatzhanova of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies presented three options for accession: Nuclear weapons states could eliminate their arsenals before signing the treaty, sign the treaty with a clear plan for elimination, or negotiate a plan for elimination upon signing. Many states supported the second option while others advocated for the first.
All of these questions will require further discussion when the participating states gather for the second round of the negotiation in June.
It is not clear that any of the issues where differences have arisen will prove deal-breakers for some participating states. How they resolve those differences—and whether in the end they can come to consensus on a ban treaty—will shape their ability to mobilize pressure on the nuclear weapons states.
And that is what this negotiation is all about. The non-nuclear weapons states have already committed in the NPT not to acquire nuclear arms. The question is whether they can push the nuclear weapons states to accelerate their disarmament efforts.
None of the specific resolutions will change the views of the nuclear weapons states on whether or not to take part in the ban treaty negotiation. They continue to regard the enterprise as disconnected from reality. But a successful negotiation that results in a treaty could up the pressure. The nuclear weapons states should pay attention. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2017/04/12/big-debates-at-u-n-nuclear-weapons-ban-treaty-negotiations/
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