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UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons comes into effect


UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons comes into effect

US Air Force
Photo: US Air Force

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) will today become international law after having secured the requisite number of ratifications from 86 states.

The treaty, spearheaded by non-nuclear-armed states and non-governmental organisations including the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), will be the first international legal instrument that makes nuclear weapons illegal, prohibiting their development, testing, use or threat of use. The nine nuclear-armed states, including the US, Russia and China, remain opposed to the treaty.

Considering US efforts to boycott treaty negotiations so far, expect President Joe Biden to abstain from signing the treaty. This is in keeping with long-standing US views that nuclear weapons enhance its and its allies’ security, primarily by serving as a deterrent against a nuclear first strike. Still, Biden’s record of advocacy on arms control makes it likely that his administration will promote significant nuclear nonproliferation measures including the possible adoption of a “no first use” policy embraced during his presidential campaign. This would mean renouncing the preemptive use of nuclear weapons while retaining the US’ right to second strike in the event of an attack, a policy no previous US administration has adopted.

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