Explanation of Vote in the First Committee on Resolution L.6: “Taking Forward Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament Negotiations”

Ambassador Robert Wood
U.S. Permanent Representative to the Conference on Disarmament
New York City
October 27, 2017


Mr. Chairman, I would like to deliver an explanation of vote on behalf of the United Kingdom, France, and the United States, on draft resolution L.6, entitled “Taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations.”

This resolution welcomes the adoption on 7 July of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (Prohibition Treaty). Our governments did not take part in the negotiation and adoption of the text of the Prohibition Treaty. We did not do so because the Treaty is premised on the false assumption that nuclear disarmament can be achieved without addressing the real security challenges that make nuclear deterrence necessary. A balanced and pragmatic approach that takes into account the prevailing international security environment remains the only realistic way to make substantial progress on nuclear disarmament while enhancing international peace and stability.

We have made tremendous progress in reducing our nuclear arsenals. However, addressing further prospects for nuclear disarmament must also take into account all factors, including those that could affect international peace and stability, which an approach merely focused on the humanitarian dimension fails to achieve.

Mr. Chairman, the Prohibition Treaty’s provisions threaten to undermine the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), which remains the cornerstone of the international arms control and non-proliferation regime. This is especially true of Article 18 of the Prohibition Treaty, which as between its parties, makes it clear that the ban treaty supersedes other existing international legal instruments, including the NPT. The Treaty does not impose adherence to the NPT as a criterion for accession. A country could decide to withdraw from the NPT and its requirement for safeguards, with the pretext of adhering to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

The Prohibition Treaty does not address the real challenges of nuclear disarmament. It requires the Parties to declare past possession of nuclear weapons but not to declare former nuclear-weapon programs. It will divide the international community and weaken existing instruments and structures that are crucial to achieving concrete and verifiable progress toward nuclear disarmament.


The Prohibition Treaty does not include serious verification provisions. The provision that does appear endorses a standard that has long been deemed insufficient, rather than requiring adherence to the Additional Protocol which, when combined with comprehensive safeguards, is the current and widely-accepted standard for verification.

For these and other reasons, we strongly oppose the Treaty. Though entitled “the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons”, it was negotiated and concluded in the absence of participation by any state which possesses nuclear weapons. The Prohibition Treaty, and its adoption or entry into force, will not change our legal obligations with respect to nuclear weapons; and we do not accept that the Prohibition Treaty constitutes or contributes to the development of customary international law.

The focus on nuclear disarmament would be better channeled towards existing processes aimed at developing practical and effective measures on disarmament that can help create the conditions for sustainable progress.

We must work together and strive for an inclusive approach. Effective multilateralism requires demanding efforts from all stakeholders to achieve progress through constructive dialogue and consensus building.

For reasons noted above, we will vote against this resolution and will not support any other explicit or implicit reference to the Prohibition Treaty in any other resolution.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.