The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) will become binding law for participating states on January 22, 2021. Entry into force was triggered on October 24, the date marking the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, when Honduras become the 50th state to ratify the TPNW, reaching the threshold set by the treaty.
A hard-earned lesson of the Cold War is that arms control reduces the risk of nuclear war by limiting dangerous deployments and, even more important, by creating channels of communication and understanding. But President Donald Trump and his National Security Advisor John Bolton appear to have forgotten, or never learned, that lesson.
President Trump’s threat of total destruction of North Korea is utterly unacceptable. Also deplorable is the response of North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho on 23 September at the United Nations.
Is a paradigm shift now underway on nuclear weapons at the United Nations? That was the question posed as about 130 nations gathered this past week to begin negotiations on a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons, leading to their total elimination. The treaty would prohibit development, possession and use of nuclear weapons, but would not contain detailed provisions relating to verified dismantlement of nuclear arsenals and governance of a world free of nuclear arms.
Since 2008, eloquent affirmations of the desirability and necessity of achieving a world without nuclear weapons have poured out from many quarters, not least from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and US President Barack Obama. Yet the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva has displayed an impressive immunity to the marked shift in rhetoric, remaining mired in deadlock. Operating under an absolute rule of consensus, the UN-affiliated body has conducted no negotiations whatsoever since it produced the text of the agreement banning all nuclear test explosions in 1996.