NATO condemns UN nuclear weapon ban treaty

BRUSSELS: NATO on Wednesday condemned a UN treaty banning nuclear arms as unrealistic and warned that it risked undermining the international response to North Korea's atomic weapons programme.

The United Nations adopted the treaty in July, though none of the nine countries that have nuclear weapons took part in shaping it or voting on it, and three of them — NATO members Britain, France and the United States — immediately said they had no intention of joining it.

NATO said the treaty "disregards the realities of the increasingly challenging international security environment" in the face of growing threats, particularly from Pyongyang, which recently carried out its sixth nuclear test and most powerful to date.

"At a time when the world needs to remain united in the face of growing threats, in particular the grave threat posed by North Korea's nuclear programme, the treaty fails to take into account these urgent security challenges," the 29-nation alliance said.

It added: "Seeking to ban nuclear weapons through a treaty that will not engage any state actually possessing nuclear weapons will not be effective, will not reduce nuclear arsenals, and will neither enhance any country's security, nor international peace and stability.

"Indeed it risks doing the opposite by creating divisions and divergences at a time when a unified approach to proliferation and security threats is required more than ever."

The intervention from the alliance comes a day after US President Donald Trump told the UN General Assembly in New York he was ready to "totally destroy" North Korea, mocking its leader Kim Jong-Un as "Rocket Man ... on a suicide mission".

Disarmament campaigners hailed the treaty as an important step but most NATO members boycotted the talks to prepare the text, as did Japan — the only country to have suffered nuclear attacks, in 1945.

Nuclear powers argue their arsenals serve as a deterrent and say they remain committed to the gradual approach to disarmament outlined in the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

NATO said the ban treaty risked undermining the NPT, which seeks to prevent the spread of atomic weapons but also puts the onus on nuclear states to reduce their stockpiles. — AFP