UN Adopts U.S.-Drafted Plea for Stalled Nuclear Test Treaty

Updated on
  • Nonbinding measure calls for all nations to ratify treaty
  • Republicans in Congress objected as Senate hasn’t done so

The UN Security Council adopted a U.S.-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 favor 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 U.S. signed in 1996. While the U.S. Senate has never ratified the treaty, the resolution adopted Friday urges all states that haven’t signed or ratified it to “do so without delay.”

“Almost every member of the UN has renounced the option of nuclear testing,” U.S. 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 U.S. and the rest of the group of 44 countries that are designated “nuclear capable,” including China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea and Pakistan.

Republican Senators

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 Friday he was pleased the resolution wasn’t legally binding.

“Any attempt to circumvent Congress by using a backdoor 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.

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

Obama’s Record

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 U.S. and Russian arsenals and, later, in a deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program. 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 modernization of all three legs of the U.S.’s land-sea-air triad of nuclear weapons systems.