U.S. & Allies Skip UN Talks to Ban Nuclear Weapons

Daily News Article   —   Posted on March 28, 2017

U.S. & Allies Skip UN Talks to Ban Nuclear Weapons

Nikki Haley, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, spoke on Monday outside the nuclear weapons ban talks, flanked by France’s deputy UN ambassador Alexis Lamek (left) and British ambassador to the UN Matthew Rycroft (right). (Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Image)

(Compiled from reports at The New York Times and Reuters) UNITED NATIONS — Saying the time was not right to outlaw nuclear arms, the United States, Britain and France – and almost 40 other countries – did not join talks on a treaty to ban nuclear weapons that started at the United Nations this week.

“There is nothing I want more for my family than a world with no nuclear weapons,” U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley told reporters outside the General Assembly as the talks were getting underway. “But we have to be realistic. Is there anyone who thinks that North Korea would ban nuclear weapons?”

Ambassador Haley told reporters the countries skipping the negotiations are instead committed to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (see “Background” below) which entered into force in 1970 and is aimed at preventing the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology.

Ms. Haley and other ambassadors standing with her, including envoys from Albania, Britain, France and South Korea, declined to take questions.

The United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution in December – 113 in favor to 35 against, with 13 abstentions – that decided to “negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination” and encouraged all member states to participate.

The talks, supported by more than 120 countries, were first announced in October and are led by Austria, Brazil, Ireland, Mexico, South Africa and Sweden. Disarmament groups strongly support the effort.

The United States and most other nuclear powers, including Russia, oppose the talks.

“You are going to see almost 40 countries that are not in the General Assembly today,” Haley said. “In this day and time we can’t honestly that say we can protect our people by allowing the bad actors to have them and those of us that are good, trying to keep peace and safety, not to have them.”

The talks come against the backdrop of increasing worries over the intentions of a reclusive North Korea, which has tested nuclear weapons and missiles that could conceivably carry them. Defying international sanctions, the North Koreans have threatened to strike the United States and its allies with what North Korea’s state news media has called the “nuclear sword of justice.”

Explaining his country’s position, British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said:

“The UK is not attending the negotiations on a treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons because we do not believe that those negotiations will lead to effective progress on global nuclear disarmament.”

Ambassador Haley and Ambassador Rycroft emphasized that the U.S. and Britain have vastly reduced the size of their nuclear arsenals since the height of the Cold War.

Deputy French U.N, Ambassador Alexis Lamek said the security conditions were not right for a nuclear weapons ban treaty.

“In the current perilous context, considering in particular the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery, our countries continue to rely on nuclear deterrence for security and stability,” Lamek said.

Ms. Haley questioned whether countries favoring a weapons ban understood the nature of global threats. Referring to nations participating in the talks, she said, “You have to ask yourself, are they looking out for their people?”

Ms. Haley’s counterparts from Russia and China, both veto-wielding permanent members of the Security Council, did not join her protest group. But they are not participating in the talks.

Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov of Russia said in Moscow last week that his government did not support a global nuclear weapons ban, essentially agreeing with the American position.

“Efforts to coerce nuclear powers to abandon nuclear weapons have intensified significantly recently,” Tass – the Russian government’s  news agency quoted him as saying. “It is absolutely clear that the time has not yet come for that.”

Compiled from news reports at The New York Times and Reuters published on March 27. Reprinted here for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission. 

Questions

1. The first paragraph of a news article should answer the questions who, what, where and when. List the who, what, where and when of this news item. (NOTE: The remainder of a news article provides details on the why and/or how.)

2. a) Who is the U.S. Ambassador to the UN?
b) How did the Ambassador explain the reason for not joining the group that wants all countries to ban nuclear weapons?
c) Do you agree with Ambassador Haley? Explain your answer.

3. a) List the countries which have nuclear weapons. (See “Background” below for the answer.)
b) List the countries with nuclear weapons that are not participating in the nuclear ban talks.

4. How did Britain’s Ambassador explain his government’s decision?

5. What did the French Ambassador say about a nuclear weapons ban treaty?

6. What has North Korea done recently that is of concern to the world?

7. Do you think the resolution adopted by 120 UN member countries to “negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination” is a realistic, reasonable goal, or do you agree with the U.S. [Trump administration] and 40 others who oppose such a measure at this time? (Remember, for the U.S., this is a departure from the past 8 years under President Obama, who had a goal of creating a nuclear weapons-free world.) Explain your answer.


Free Answers — Sign-up here to receive a daily email with answers.

Background

The UN’s Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT):

  • Under the United Nations Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) countries are not allowed to make nuclear weapons – except for the 5 that had nuclear weapons prior to the treaty: the U.S., Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom.
  • The aim of the UN’s Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is to limit the spread of nuclear weapons.
  • There are currently 189 countries party to the treaty, five of which have nuclear weapons:
    the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, China (the permanent members of the UN Security Council).
  • Only four recognized sovereign states are not parties to the NPT treaty: India, Israel, Pakistan and North Korea. India, Pakistan and North Korea have openly tested and are presumed to possess nuclear weapons. Israel has had a policy of nontransparancy regarding its own nuclear weapons program. North Korea acceded to the treaty, violated it, and later withdrew.
  • Iran’s 20 year secret nuclear program was discovered in 2002. Iran continues to claim that its program is for fuel purposes only, but it has been working on uranium enrichment which is used to make nuclear bombs. [NOTE ON URANIUM ENRICHMENT: Enriched uranium is a critical component for both civil nuclear power generation and military nuclear weapons. The UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency attempts to monitor and control enriched uranium supplies and processes in its efforts to ensure nuclear power generation safety and curb nuclear weapons proliferation (buildup).]
  • Numerous economic sanctions imposed on Iran were beginning to take a toll on the country’s economy, but in July 2015 President Barack Obama negotiated an agreement with Iran in which Iranian leaders said they would put a 10 year hold on their nuclear program in exchange for the dropping of sanctions against them.
  • The Iranian government has called for the destruction of Israel on numerous occasions. It is believed that once obtained, the Iranian government would use nuclear weapons against Israel.

The following is an unofficial list of the 101 states that attended the organizational meeting on February 16, 2017 to prepare for negotiations on the treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons. There were also three observers: Holy See, Palestine and the European Union. (from the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons website)

Algeria, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Chile, China, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Cote d’Ivoire, Cuba, Cyprus, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Iraq, Ireland, Jamaica, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Lebanon, Lesotho, Libya, Liechtenstein, Madagascar, Malaysia, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Myanmar, Namibia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Oman, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Republic of Moldova, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Syrian Arab Republic, Tajikistan, Thailand, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

THE UNITED NATIONS

  • According to WorldAtlas .com, there are 194 independent countries in the world today.
  • 192 countries are UN members. The exceptions are Taiwan (in 1971, the UN ousted Taiwan and replaced it with the People’s Republic of China) and Vatican City. Kosovo is not yet a member (it is not recognized as an independent country by all).
  • Each country gets one vote in the UN General Assembly.
  • The U.S. pays at least 22% of the overall yearly budget of the UN.

ON THE U.N. SECURITY COUNCIL: (read more at the website un.org/Docs/sc/unsc_background.html)

  • The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is charged with the maintenance of international peace and security.
  • Its powers, outlined in the United Nations Charter, include the establishment of peacekeeping operations, the establishment of international sanctions, and the authorization of military action. Its powers are exercised through United Nations Security Council Resolutions.
  • There are 15 members of the Security Council, consisting of five veto-wielding permanent members (China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States) and ten elected members with two-year terms [these are not eligible for immediate re-election]
  • The ten elected members are elected by the General Assembly for two-year terms starting on January 1st, with five replaced each year. The members are chosen by regional groups and confirmed by the United Nations General Assembly. The African bloc chooses three members; the Latin America and the Caribbean, Asian, and Western European and Others blocs choose two members each; and the Eastern European bloc chooses one member. Also, one of these members is an “Arab country,” alternately from the Asian or African bloc.
  • Security Council members must always be present at UN headquarters in New York so that the Security Council can meet at any time. This requirement of the United Nations Charter was adopted to address a weakness of the League of Nations since that organization was often unable to respond quickly to a crisis.
  • Each Council member has one vote.
  • Decisions on procedural matters are made by an affirmative vote of at least nine of the 15 members.
  • Decisions on substantive matters (including imposing sanctions on a country) require nine votes, including the concurring votes of all five permanent members.
  • Under the UN Charter, all 191 Member States (countries) of the United Nations agree to accept and carry out the decisions of the Security Council.  While other organs of the United Nations make recommendations to Governments, the Council alone has the power to make decisions which Member States are obligated under the Charter to carry out.