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United Nations

UN adopts US-drafted plea for stalled nuclear test treaty amid North Korean threat

The proposal passed the Security Council on Friday with 14 votes in favour and Egypt abstaining

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 September, 2016, 6:13pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 September, 2016, 6:13pm

The UN Security Council adopted a US-drafted resolution calling on all states to end nuclear weapons testing, a move that came over the opposition of some Republican lawmakers in Washington.

The proposal passed the Security Council on Friday with 14 votes in favour and Egypt abstaining. The resolution, which isn’t legally binding, coincides with the 20th anniversary of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, an international agreement prohibiting nuclear test explosions, which the US signed in 1996. While the US Senate has never ratified the treaty, the resolution adopted on Friday urges all states that haven’t signed or ratified it to “do so without delay”.

Our actions today can give people everywhere that a world without nuclear weapons might actually be possible
US Secretary of State John Kerry

“Almost every member of the UN has renounced the option of nuclear testing,” US Secretary of State John Kerry said in introducing the resolution. “Our actions today can give people everywhere that a world without nuclear weapons might actually be possible. ”

The treaty will come into force only if it’s ratified by the US and the rest of the group of 44 countries that are designated “nuclear capable”, including China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea and Pakistan.

In September, 33 Republican senators, including former presidential candidate Marco Rubio of Florida, wrote to President Barack Obama saying they feared he was going to the UN to sidestep Senate opposition.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Senator Bob Corker, who had also had expressed concern, said on Friday he was pleased the resolution wasn’t legally binding.

“Any attempt to circumvent Congress by using a back-door process to attempt to implement a treaty the Senate has voted to reject would have been wholly inappropriate and set a dangerous precedent,” the Tennessee Republican said in a statement.

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Some Republican senators also have threatened to prevent the authorization of about US$32 million a year that the US contributes to the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organisation, about a quarter of its budget.

Obama, whose term ends in January, would need a two-thirds majority in the Senate, where Republicans hold the majority, for ratification. No move has been made to take up the treaty.

Obama came into office pledging to move toward a world free of nuclear weapons, and achieved some success in negotiations to reduce the US and Russian arsenals and, later, in a deal to curb Iran’s nuclear programme. But he is winding down his second term with North Korea expanding its weapons and missile testing in defiance of the UN and with the Pentagon moving toward modernisation of all three legs of the US’s land-sea-air triad of nuclear weapons systems.