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HOME  > Past issues  > 2017 July 5 - 11  > Progress toward nuclear weapons ban treaty
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2017 July 5 - 11 [PEACE]

Progress toward nuclear weapons ban treaty

July 9, 2017
Akahata on July 9 carried an article featuring the progress made toward a Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty adopted on July 7, local time, by the United Nations:

In August 1945, the United States dropped the precedent-setting atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. After the war, the United Nations held its first general assembly in January 1946 and adopted its first-ever resolution, calling for the abolition of atomic armament and any other type of weapons of mass destruction, with which the U.S. itself also agreed.

However, military alliances centering on the U.S. and the former Soviet Union were formed, which caused a subsequent nuclear arms race based on the “nuclear deterrence theory” and led to an increase in the number of nuclear weapons possessing states.

In March 1954, the U.S. conducted a hydrogen bomb test at the Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Ocean. With a Japanese fishing boat’s exposure to the nuclear fallout as a trigger, in August of the following year, the World Conference against A and H Bombs was established. Since then, the Conference has consistently been working to achieve the prevention of nuclear war, and a total ban on and the elimination of nuclear weapons.

In April 1955, the first Asian-African Conference took place in Bandung in Indonesia, setting forth a goal of banning nuclear weapons. The Non-Aligned Movement took over this goal, and the UNGA also began calling for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons.

The Partial Test Ban Treaty (Oct. 1963) which limits nuclear weapons tests to underground tests and the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty (Mar. 1970) which allows five states to possess nuclear weapons entered into force. Actually, neither of them could stop the nuclear arms race which continued unabated through the 1970s and the 1980s.

In May 1995, the indefinite extension of the NPT which had been originally limited to 25 years triggered a worldwide movement to eliminate all nuclear weapons.

In response to the global effort to push for international recognition of nuclear weapons as illegal, the International Court of Justice in July 1996 issued an advisory statement that the use of and the threat of the use of nuclear weapons are in violation of international law. Following this move, the UNGA began adopting antinuke resolutions every year.

The NPT Review Conference in May 2000 in its final document reaffirmed “an unequivocal undertaking by the nuclear-weapons States to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals”. Under Article VI of the NPT, the international community committed to pushing the five nuclear states hard to dismantle their nuclear capabilities.

U.S. President Obama in April 2009 delivered a speech in Prague and stated, “As a nuclear power and as the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States have a moral responsibility to act” to establish a “world without nuclear weapons”. On the international political scene, a trend toward nuclear disarmament grew, but all the nuclear states, including the U.S. Obama administration, and their allies firmly maintained the policy of nuclear deterrence.

Under such circumstances, a global effort to pursue the abolition from the viewpoint of labelling nuclear arms as inhumane weaponry appeared anew in the international political arena.

Sixteen countries in May 2012 made a Joint Statement “on the humanitarian dimension of nuclear disarmament” at the first session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2015 NPT Review Conference. Their statement warns, “If such weapons are to be used, be it intentionally or accidentally, immense humanitarian consequences would be unavoidable.” After that, an international conference on the “Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons” took place three times and the number of countries agreeing with the Joint Statement increased to 155 as of the end of 2014.

Influenced by this move, the 71st UNGA in December 2016 adopted a resolution stating that a conference to negotiate a legally-binding treaty to ban nuclear weapons will be held in 2017. On July 7 at the second session of the conference, 122 governments adopted the treaty.
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