If we are to have stability, we must have justice. This means the same rules apply to all. Where this principle is violated disaster is risked. In this regard we point to the failure of the nuclear weapons states to fulfill their bargain contained in the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to negotiate the universal elimination of nuclear weapons. To pursue a nuclear-weapons-free Korean Peninsula or Middle East or South Asia, without credible commitment to universal nuclear disarmament is akin to a parent trying to persuade his teenagers not to smoke while puffing on a cigar. There are steps available to make progress in this area and they include: a. Completing a treaty with full verification mechanisms cutting off further production of highly enriched uranium or plutonium for weapons purposes. b. Universal ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, now ratified by 176 nations. c. Taking the arsenals of Russia and the US off of hair trigger, launch on warning high alert. d. Legally confirmed pledges by all states with nuclear weapons never to use them first. e. Making cuts in the US and Russia’s arsenal irreversible and verifiable.
The NPT requires the US, China, Russia, UK, and France to negotiate the elimination of nuclear weapons. Each of these states are either modernizing their nuclear arsenals and/or expanding them rather than fulfilling their legal obligations to negotiate their elimination. It is time they began to fulfill their disarmament duties by either joining the Ban Treaty and addressing its limitations of verification and other technical issues or move forward in the arduous process of negotiating a comprehensive nuclear weapons convention to their liking. Sitting on the sidelines and offering no better way forward is inadequate.
The Treaty, in its preamble, highlights, “the ethical imperative” to achieve a nuclear weapons free world. The Treaty is designed, in its intent and substance, to stimulate, support, and advance humanity’s quest for the security of a nuclear free world. Obviously, more work is needed. Rather than only criticize that the Treaty does not do everything at once, critics should get to work on moving forward.
The Treaty states “that any use of nuclear weapons would be contrary to the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict, in particular international humanitarian law.” The Treaty deftly highlights prohibitions on the use of nuclear weapons that apply to all states now, including those with the weapons.
Existing international humanitarian law (law of war) limits the use of force in armed conflict, compels distinctions between civilians and combatants, sets forth requirements that force be proportionate to specific military objectives, prohibits weapons of a nature to that causes superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering and provides rules for the protection of the natural environment. The Treaty further emphasizes “that any use of nuclear weapons would also be abhorrent to the principles of humanity and the dictates of public conscience.”
The Treaty makes clear that even today should North Korea bomb Tokyo with a nuclear weapon, should a conflict take place, that it would be illegal and indeed criminal. This scope of the existing illegality of such uses of the weapon applies to all states, including those that have not signed on to the Treaty.
The Ban Treaty presents a challenge to the nuclear weapons states to help make humanity great by joining in efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons.
GSI was honored to participate in the Treaty negotiations along with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons and hundreds of other passionate civil society advocates who for decades have laid the groundwork for this step forward.
GSI contributions to the 2017 Conference on Establishing a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons:
i. The Turtle, The Horse, and Nuclear Weapons, First Working Paper