Amid tensions over North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests, 51 countries have signed the world’s first legally binding treaty banning nuclear weapons. It prohibits the development, testing and possession of nuclear weapons, as well as using or threatening to use these weapons. It was first adopted in July by 122 U.N. member states, despite heavy U.S. opposition. None of the nine countries that possess nuclear weapons signed the measure, including Russia, Britain, China, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel. We speak with Susi Snyder, nuclear disarmament program manager for the Netherlands-based group PAX and author of the report "Don’t Bank on the Bomb."
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. Amidst tensions over North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests, President Donald Trump told the U.N. General Assembly Tuesday the United States would totally destroy North Korea, a country of 25 million people. Then, on Wednesday, 51 countries signed a new treaty that would ban nuclear weapons. The United Nations calls it the world’s first legally binding treaty banning nuclear weapons. It prohibits the development, testing, and possession of nuclear weapons, as well as using or threatening to use these weapons. The treaty is set to take effect 90 days after it is ratified. It was first adopted in July by 122 U.N. member states, despite heavy U.S. opposition. None of the nine countries that possess nuclear weapons signed the measure. Those countries are the United States, Russia, Britain, China, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel.
For more, we’re joined by Susi Snyder, nuclear disarmament program manager for the Netherlands-based group PAX and author of the report "Don’t Bank on the Bomb."
Welcome to Democracy Now!
SUSI SNYDER: Thank you very much.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about what happened this week at the U.N.
SUSI SNYDER: So, this week, 50 countries said, "We ultimately reject nuclear weapons. We find them completely illegitimate, and we are willing to sign the first treaty that makes them totally illegal." And this is the first 50. There were 42 in an hour. And it’s the first time that nuclear weapons are categorically prohibited. This is new, and it is an effective measure that responsible countries are taking to make sure to reduce nuclear dangers.
AMY GOODMAN: So, what does it mean exactly? What does it mean to adopt it and now to sign it? And what happens with ratification?
SUSI SNYDER: Right, so, every country has a ratification process that’s a little different, so it means adopting this treaty as part of your national law. Now, there’s already 115 countries that have rejected nuclear weapons in regional agreements. And we expect that a lot of those are going to be able to ratify very quickly. All the way through this process, countries have been condemning nuclear weapons because they’re inhumane at catastrophic effect. And this is a humanitarian treaty that’s rooted in international humanitarian law, the law of war, saying nuclear weapons can’t be possessed or used, or even the threat of nuclear weapons is illegal. And that’s a very positive step for us. So, we’ll see 50 ratifications in the coming year or so, and then the treaty will enter into force.
AMY GOODMAN: So what does it mean that the nuclear countries, none of them participated?
SUSI SNYDER: Yeah, well, it’s really unfortunate, especially since five them are required by the Non-Proliferation Treaty to negotiate nuclear disarmament. They did not do that. And they are missing an opportunity. The countries that led this process recognize that it’s the impact of nuclear weapons, that we need to talk about them as weapons, not as tools. And that is what reframed the debate. It reframed the discussion. And the impact it will have on the nuclear-armed states is that we’re strengthening a norm, and we’re making their weapons illegitimate. And that has led historically to disarmament.
AMY GOODMAN: You’re author of "Don’t Bank on the Bomb." What’s this campaign?
SUSI SNYDER: "Don’t Bank on the Bomb" works with the financial sector to stop investment in nuclear weapon-producing companies. And we had a great announcement from Amalgamated Bank here in New York on the day of the signing, that said, "Hey, we don’t have any investment in nuclear weapons producers, because we find it illegitimate." And that’s the first U.S. bank that we know of that’s made such an announcement. This is one of the things that’s going to have a big impact on making sure that the production of weapons, of these nuclear weapons, stops.
AMY GOODMAN: And when you talk about "we," who were the forces behind this nuclear ban?
SUSI SNYDER: Well, it’s been a coalition of nongovernmental organizations through the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons; governments—it’s been about 120 governments that have really been emphatic about this; and the International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, who have talked about the humanitarian consequences of this weapon. And that’s what we need to keep our focus on.
AMY GOODMAN: And what about the fact this is happening when President Trump is threatening to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal, as well as threatening the country of North Korea?
SUSI SNYDER: That’s deplorable, to be perfectly honest. That type of activity is what this treaty seeks to end. And the Iran deal is—it’s a good deal. It stops the Iranian nuclear program. The activities of North Korea should—there should have been a negotiation directly with North Korea to make a similar deal, and we missed that opportunity. There needs to be direct negotiations so that we don’t get into war.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you, Susi Snyder, for joining us, nuclear disarmament program manager for the group PAX, based in the Netherlands, author of the report "Don’t Bank on Bomb."
And that does it for our broadcast. Democracy Now! co-host Juan González will be speaking next Friday, September 29th, in Kansas City. I’ll be speaking that night, as well, in Winnipeg, Canada. On Saturday, September 30th, Juan is speaking at University of Maryland, College Park; I’ll be speaking in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in Canada. Then, Sunday, October 11th [sic], I’ll be speaking at the University of Guelph in Guelph—that is, October 1st, in Ontario; that same night, at Ryerson University in Toronto. You can check our website for details.
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Photo Credit: Republic of Korea Air Force/CC