World

UN welcomes US, Russia’s quest for nuclear treaty extension

Antonio Guterres

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has welcomed the decisions by Russia and the United States to seek a five-year extension of the New START treaty, his spokesman said.

Guterres’ spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, who disclosed this at his daily news briefing in New York, on Friday, quoted Guterres as saying that a five-year extension would maintain “verifiable caps” on the arsenals of the world’s two largest nuclear states.

He added that it would also provide time to negotiate new nuclear arms control agreements to grapple with “our increasingly complex international environment”.

The New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) is a 2011 nuclear arms reduction agreement between the U.S. and Russia due to expire on February 5.

It limits the number of both countries’ deployed strategic nuclear warheads to 1,550, while requiring them to halve the number of their nuclear missile launchers.

Under the agreement, the two countries also committed to allowing satellite and remote monitoring, and 18 on-site inspections per year, to verify limits.

Call for action

Guterres urged both countries to expedite action towards completing the necessary procedures for the extension, before the February 5 expiration.

He also encouraged them to “move as soon as possible to negotiations on new arms control measures”.

On Thursday, White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, told reporters that the New START’s extension would be one of President Joe Biden’s first major foreign policy decisions.

“The President has long been clear that the New START treaty is in the national security interests of the United States.

“And this extension makes even more sense when the relationship with Russia is adversarial as it is at this time,” Psaki said.

Kremlin

Reacting to the news on Friday, the Kremlin welcomed Biden’s “political will to extend the document”.

Newsmen recalled that this development comes on the heels of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which came into force on Friday.

Among other provisions, TPNW forbids ratifying countries from developing, testing, producing manufacturing, possessing or stockpiling nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.

It also bans any transfer or use of nuclear weapons or nuclear explosive devices, and the threat to use such weapons, and requires parties to promote the treaty to other countries.

When the treaty was adopted by the UN General Assembly in July, 2017, more than 122 countries, including Nigeria, approved it.

But the United States, Russia, Britain, China, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel, which are known or believed to possess nuclear weapons opposed it.

Surprisingly, Japan, the only country in the world to have suffered nuclear attacks, opposed the TPNW too on the ground that a ban was unrealistic, without the support of the nuclear states.

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