American envoy to the United Nations Nikki Haley today opposed a conference convened by the General Assembly to negotiate a legally-binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, saying “bad actors” cannot be allowed to have the weapons as other nations try to maintain peace and safety.
“We would love to have a ban on nuclear weapons but in this day and time we cannot honestly say that we can protect our people by allowing the bad actors to have them and those of us who are good trying to keep the peace and safety not to have them,” Haley told reporters in New York.
Haley, joined by UK’s Ambassador to the UN Matthew Rycroft and her French counterpart Francois Delattre, spoke just before the General Assembly convened its first substantive session to negotiate the legally-binding instrument to ban nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination.
She said the assembly “suddenly” wants to have a hearing to ban nuclear weapons and while “as a mother and daughter” she wants a world with no nuclear weapons, one also has to be “realistic”.
“Is there anyone who believes that North Korea would agree to a ban on nuclear weapons? So what you would see is that the General Assembly would go through, in good faith, trying to do something but North Korea would be the one cheering and all of us and the people we represent would be the ones at risk,” she said.
She said Washington believes in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and had reduced its weapons by 85 per cent since the treaty went into place. She added that while the US would want to see a world without nuclear weapons, the time for it is not today and it will defend its citizens as well as its friends and allies.
“One day we will hope we no longer need nuclear weapons. But today, in this day and time, in the situations that we are in, we unfortunately don’t have the ability to do that,” she said.
About 40 countries are not participating in the General Assembly session that will run until March 31.
Permanent Representative of Costa Rica to the UN Office in Geneva Elayne Whyte Gómez will preside over the conference. It will be taking place in the context of an absence of concrete outcomes from two decades of multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations within the framework of the United Nations.
The UN said the conference represents the first multilateral negotiations on nuclear disarmament in more than 20 years.
As of 2016, it is estimated that more than 15,000 nuclear warheads remain in global stockpiles. The world body said in a statement that while that represents a considerable reduction from the inventories maintained during the cold war, there has been growing frustration in recent years over the declining pace of reductions, continued reliance on nuclear weapons in security doctrines and continuing programmes to modernise and improve nuclear weapons.
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“Supporters of a legally-binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons consider that it would be an interim or partial step towards nuclear disarmament because it would not include measures for elimination — matters that would be left for future negotiations. Rather, it would be aimed at contributing to the progressive stigmatisation of nuclear weapons,” the UN statement said.