Ambassadors of Western nuclear powers to snub Nobel ceremony

AFP-JIJI, Kyodo

Breaking with tradition, nearly all ambassadors of the world’s nuclear powers will not attend this year’s Nobel Peace Prize ceremony which honors efforts to ban atomic weapons, the Nobel Institute said Thursday.

“We are disappointed that the ambassadors from the United Kingdom, the United States and France won’t be there,” said Beatrice Fihn, the head of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).

“They claim to be committed to a world without nuclear weapons, and they should be celebrating civil society’s work on the issue,” she said, regretting their “defensive” position, yet noting that it “shows that this treaty and the campaign is already having an impact on them.”

The peace prize was awarded on Oct. 6 to ICAN, a coalition of nongovernmental organizations lobbying for a historic treaty banning atomic weapons, which was signed in July by 122 countries — but by none of the nuclear powers.

ICAN will formally receive its prize at a lavish ceremony in Oslo on Dec. 10.

During a meeting in the Norwegian capital last week, the United States, France and Britain all informed the Nobel Institute of their joint decision to be represented by their embassy’s second-in-charge.

“They clearly received instructions to express their reservations towards ICAN and the global treaty” to ban weapons of mass destruction, said Olav Njolstad, the head of the Nobel Institute.

Of the nine countries with nuclear weapons capabilities, Russia and Israel, an unofficial nuclear nation, will be the only ones sending their ambassadors to the ceremony.

Japan’s ambassador will attend, according to the Japanese Embassy in Norway. Japan has said it aspires to a world without nuclear weapons, but it did not support the efforts to pass the ban treaty, reflecting its reliance on the U.S. nuclear deterrent for protection.

“In principle, we like all embassies in Oslo to send their highest representative but we have to accept that, sometimes, for political reasons, various countries abstain from participating or choose to do so at a lower level,” Njolstad said.

The United States, France and Britain all confirmed their lower level of participation to AFP.

The U.S. embassy noted the treaty comes “at a time of increased danger of nuclear proliferation.”

“This treaty will not make the world more peaceful, will not result in the elimination of a single nuclear weapon, and will not enhance any state’s security,” it said in a statement.

Without mentioning North Korea by name, it stressed that “this treaty ignores the current security challenges that make nuclear deterrence necessary,” and reiterated Washington’s support of the 1968 global non-proliferation treaty.

Britain said meanwhile in a statement that it “is committed to the long term goal of a world without nuclear weapons.”

“We share this goal with our partners across the international community including U.S. and France.”

The Nobel Institute said the ambassadors of India and Pakistan will be traveling at the time of the ceremony, while China has not attended the prize-giving since 2010, when a Chinese dissident was awarded the honor.

North Korea does not have an embassy in Oslo.