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First Treaty to Ban Nukes Becomes Law  01/22 06:12

   The first-ever treaty to ban nuclear weapons entered into force on Friday, 
hailed as a historic step to rid the world of its deadliest weapons but 
strongly opposed by the world's nuclear-armed nations.

   UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- The first-ever treaty to ban nuclear weapons entered 
into force on Friday, hailed as a historic step to rid the world of its 
deadliest weapons but strongly opposed by the world's nuclear-armed nations.

   The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is now part of 
international law, culminating a decades-long campaign aimed at preventing a 
repetition of the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of 
World War II. But getting all nations to ratify the treaty requiring them to 
never own such weapons seems daunting, if not impossible, in the current global 
climate.

   When the treaty was approved by the U.N. General Assembly in July 2017, more 
than 120 approved it. But none of the nine countries known or believed to 
possess nuclear weapons --- the United States, Russia, Britain, China, France, 
India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel --- supported it and neither did the 
30-nation NATO alliance.

   Japan, the world's only country to suffer nuclear attacks, also does not 
support the treaty, even though the aged survivors of the bombings in 1945 
strongly push for it to do so. Japan on its own renounces use and possession of 
nuclear weapons, but the government has said pursuing a treaty ban is not 
realistic with nuclear and non-nuclear states so sharply divided over it.

   Nonetheless, Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign 
to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize-winning coalition whose 
work helped spearhead the treaty, called it "a really big day for international 
law, for the United Nations and for survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki."

   The treaty received its 50th ratification on Oct. 24, triggering a 90-day 
period before its entry into force on Jan. 22.

   As of Thursday, Fihn told The Associated Press that 61 countries had 
ratified the treaty, with another ratification possible on Friday, and "from 
Friday, nuclear weapons will be banned by international law" in all those 
countries.

   The treaty requires that all ratifying countries "never under any 
circumstances ... develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, 
possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices." It 
also bans any transfer or use of nuclear weapons or nuclear explosive devices 
--- and the threat to use such weapons --- and requires parties to promote the 
treaty to other countries.

   Fihn said the treaty is "really, really significant" because it will now be 
a key legal instrument, along with the Geneva Conventions on conduct toward 
civilians and soldiers during war and the conventions banning chemical and 
biological weapons and land mines.

   U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the treaty demonstrated support 
for multilateral approaches to nuclear disarmament.

   "Nuclear weapons pose growing dangers and the world needs urgent action to 
ensure their elimination and prevent the catastrophic human and environmental 
consequences any use would cause," he said in a video message. "The elimination 
of nuclear weapons remains the highest disarmament priority of the United 
Nations."

   But not for the nuclear powers.

   As the treaty was approaching the 50 ratifications needed to trigger its 
entry into force, the Trump administration wrote a letter to countries that 
signed it saying they made "a strategic error" and urging them to rescind their 
ratification.

   The letter said the treaty "turns back the clock on verification and 
disarmament" and would endanger the half-century-old Nuclear Nonproliferation 
Treaty, considered the cornerstone of nonproliferation efforts.

   Fihn countered at the time that a ban could not undermine nonproliferation 
since it was "the end goal of the Nonproliferation Treaty."

   Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, said the 
treaty's arrival was a historic step forward in efforts to free the world of 
nuclear weapons and "hopefully will compel renewed action by nuclear-weapon 
states to fulfill their commitment to the complete elimination of nuclear 
weapons."

   Fihn said in an interview that the campaign sees strong public support for 
the treaty in NATO countries and growing political pressure, citing Belgium and 
Spain. "We will not stop until we get everyone on board," she said.

   It will also be campaigning for divestment --- pressuring financial 
institutions to stop giving capital to between 30 and 40 companies involved in 
nuclear weapons and missile production including Airbus, Boeing and Lockheed 
Martin.

 
 
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