Explanation of the U.S. Vote at the U.N.

Attached is the explanation of vote of the U.S. at the voting in the UN Disarmament Committee on the resolution following up on the International Court of Justice advisory opinion on the legality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons.

The final vote in the UN General Assembly plenary will take place in early December.

You will note that the US argues incorrectly that the resolution calls for immediate multi-lateral negotiations on the timebound elimination of nuclear weapons. In fact, the resolution calls for the commencement of negotiations which would LEAD TO the conclusion of a nuclear weapons convention. Supporters of the resolution have been clear that this allows for the negotiation of disarmament steps, including those advocated by the US (i.e. bilateral reductions and a fissile material cut-off), as long as they are followed by further steps until the final goal is achieved.The real reason for US opposiiton is that the US does not want to commit itself to achieving the final goal, i.e. the elimination of nuclear weapons.

You will note also that the U.S. links the honoring of its obligations under Article VI of the NPT with the obligations of all states to make progress on general and complete disarmament. This is a very disingenuous argument for two reasons;

1) Article VI of the NPT does not make the obligation to eliminate nuclear weapons contingent upon progress in general and complete disarmament. They are two important but separate obligations. Lack of progress in meeting one obligation is not an excuse to relieve oneself of the other.

2) The US is the state which has the highest spending on conventional weapons and the most advanced conventional forces of all nations. It is illogical for them to point to other states as blocking progress in general and complete disarmament.

The US is also mistaken that the nuclear disarmament obligation which was affirmed by the Court arises solely from Article VI of the NPT. The ICJ also based its (unanimous) conclusion on the humanitarian law of warfare, according to which the Court declared the threat or use of nuclear weapons to be generally illegal, and on other international law foundations including UN resolutions. As such, the obligation is applicable to all States, not only to States Parties of the NPT. This is one aspect of the opinion which should find favor in the U.S. administration if they were interested in moving forwards on nuclear disarmament negotiations with all relevant States including the threshold States.

Finally, it should be noted that the UK in its vote this year did not oppose the conclusion of the ICJ. This is a significant split in approach between the US and UK.

Alyn Ware

U.S. About Vote in Committee
Malaysia Resolution