Countries as large as Brazil and Mexico and as small as San Marino and Kiribati have agreed to a treaty that makes it illegal in their country to develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons “under any circumstances”.
South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma also signed the pact.
During the apartheid era, South Africa was a nuclear power, but it agreed to dismantle its small stockpile in 1988 as part of a deal for Namibia’s independence with Cuba and Angola.
Nuclear weapons-free zones
“SA remains the one and only country that has ever voluntarily disbanded its nuclear weapons programme which the government did towards the end of apartheid,” said Sarah Swart of Red Cross.
“That already gives South Africa moral authority to speak on this issue. Then in 1996 we see Africa coming together as a continent to negotiate the Pelindaba Treaty, which creates the continent as a nuclear weapons-free zone. Again an outstanding achievement,” Swart said.
The UK, along with France and the United States, said the ban would fail.
US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said it would embolden “bad actors” at the expense of the current powers.
China and Russia, the other two permanent members of the UN Security Council, were also absent from the signing ceremony. In Europe, neutral Ireland joined Austria and a handful of small states in signing.
Japan, which was hit with two nuclear bombs during the Second World War, did not sign, although it signalled that it was sympathetic in general to non-proliferation.
“Although we share the same feelings about nuclear abolition, it differs from Japan’s approach, so we will not be signing it,”
Foreign Minister Taro Kono said. “Unfortunately, the reality is that there are divisions between countries with nuclear weapons and those without, as well as between the countries without them, when it comes to recognising (both) the inhumanity of nuclear weapons and the severity of the security environment,” he said, adding that Japan will try to bridge those gaps through existing frameworks.
The list of countries that signed the treaty in full:
Central African Republic
Republic of Congo
Sao Tome and Principe
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