GENEVA – The head of U.N. negotiations aimed at banning nuclear weapons released a first draft of a treaty on Monday that includes references to the suffering of victims of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Costa Rica’s ambassador to the United Nations, Elayne Whyte Gomez, released the draft ahead of the second round of U.N. talks to be held from June 15 through July 7 in New York.
The preamble of the text says the countries participating in the talks are “mindful of the suffering of the victims of the use of nuclear weapons (hibakusha) as well as of those affected by the testing of nuclear weapons.”
Expressing deep concern about “the catastrophic humanitarian consequences that would result from any use of nuclear weapons,” the text forbids states to develop, produce, manufacture, acquire, possess, transfer, receive, stockpile, test or use nuclear weapons.
In the first round of negotiations held in March, diplomats and activists agreed that the conference exceeded expectations and said the goal of realizing the first-ever treaty of its kind is within reach for July.
More than 115 countries participated in the conference with over 220 representatives, including atomic bomb victims from Hiroshima.
But the major nuclear weapon states — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — did not join the negotiations, nor did Japan, Germany or South Korea, which rely on U.S. nuclear deterrence for protection.
In an interview on Saturday, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida defended Tokyo’s absence, saying that joining would risk deepening the rift between countries with nuclear stockpiles and those without.
Instead, he advocated using existing frameworks that include countries possessing nuclear arms to see through initiatives to reduce their stockpiles. This could eventually lead to worldwide nuclear disarmament, but that hinges on “a legally binding treaty being introduced at the right time,” he said.
Echoing Kishida’s view, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference Tuesday that Japan will play a role in seeking cooperation from nuclear powers.
“As the only nation devastated by nuclear weapons in war, we will continue to lead the international community toward a world free of nuclear weapons,” the top government spokesman said.
Ahead of the first round of negotiations in March, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, along with representatives of about 20 other nations, spoke against the treaty.
“As a mom, as a daughter, there is nothing I want more for my family than a world with no nuclear weapons. But we have to be realistic,” she said.
“Is there anyone that believes that North Korea would agree to a ban on nuclear weapons? So what you would see is the General Assembly would go through, in good faith trying to do something, but North Korea would be the one cheering and all of us and the people we represent would be the ones at risk,” she said.
Despite the U.S. and other nations’ objection, the odds are high that the draft treaty will be adopted without major revisions in July as there was broad consensus among the participants in the March session about the goal of nailing down a deal soon.
The treaty, formally called the Convention on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, would go into force 90 days after the document has been ratified by 40 countries.
Last August, a U.N. working group on nuclear disarmament adopted a report recommending to the General Assembly that negotiations begin in 2017 to make nuclear weapons illegal.
The issue was taken up in New York two months later, when the committee overseeing disarmament issued a resolution which was ultimately endorsed by a large majority in the December plenary session.