NEW YORK - The U.N. General Assembly endorsed a Japanese anti-nuclear resolution by a wide margin on Wednesday, but the United States abstained in a shift of position from the previous year.
The U.N. organ also adopted an Austria-led resolution calling on member countries to ratify a landmark treaty banning nuclear weapons at an early date, the first approval of the motion this year. The ban treaty was first adopted last summer.
Tokyo has penned and put forward a similar motion calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons in each of the past 25 years, with the latest version endorsed by 162 states. Four countries — China, North Korea, Russia and Syria — voted against it and 23 abstained.
Among other things, the text “renews the determination of all states to take united action toward the total elimination of nuclear weapons through the easing of international tension and the strengthening of trust between states.”
This year’s resolution, amended from last year’s text that departed from what many came to regard as standard language, gained a slightly higher level of support, with six more countries backing it and one less abstention.
The U.S. abstention came despite Japan again omitting any reference to the nuclear weapons ban treaty in light of its reliance on U.S. nuclear deterrence. Washington backed the resolution last year.
This year, France also abstained while Britain was the only permanent member of the U.N. Security Council to endorse it.
Some of the other abstentions came from countries that support the ban treaty, such as Austria, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa.
When the motion was adopted by a U.N. committee last month, Robert Wood, the U.S. ambassador on disarmament, said the current language — which differs from the 2017 resolution that Washington had backed — was a “return to language that dates from a different time and a different security environment than we currently face.”
The United States has stressed that unspecified conditions must first be met to improve the international security environment before disarmament can take place, a view that stands in opposition to those of many countries.
Japan, the sole country to have been attacked with nuclear weapons, tried in this year’s document to bridge the gaps, reviving past references to consensus agreements reached at the review conferences on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1995, 2000 and 2010.
As for the Austria-led motion urging early ratification of the nuclear ban pact, all five permanent U.N. Security Council members — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, all of which possess nuclear arms — opposed it along with Japan and other nuclear-umbrella nations.
The first-time resolution was endorsed by 126 nations. Forty-one countries voted against it and 16 abstained.
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, adopted in July 2017, has so far been signed by 69 nations and ratified by 19. It requires ratification by 50 countries before it can enter into force.
The one-page motion welcomes the treaty’s adoption and the ongoing process toward putting it into effect, which kicked off in September last year.
It also encourages countries that have not signed or ratified the pact to do so, as well as to promote adherence to the treaty in bilateral, regional and multilateral forums.