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International relations

UN nuclear ban treaty to take effect on Jan. 22

Effectiveness in question as US and other major powers refuse to sign on

A Russian intercontinental ballistic missile system drives during a parade in Moscow.    © Reuters

NEW YORK (Kyodo) -- The United Nations said Saturday that 50 countries have ratified a U.N. treaty banning nuclear weapons, paving the way for its entry into force on Jan. 22, a move praised by anti-nuclear activists but opposed by the United States and other nuclear powers.

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which was adopted in 2017, will become the first international norm outlawing the development, testing, possession and use of nuclear weapons.

U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres commended the 50 countries and saluted "the work of civil society, which has been instrumental in facilitating the negotiation and ratification of the treaty."

The pact will enter into force 90 days after it has been ratified by at least 50 countries and regions. Honduras was the latest country to complete the ratification procedure.

Guterres said the treaty's entry into force "is a tribute to the survivors of nuclear explosions and tests," and "represents a meaningful commitment toward the total elimination of nuclear weapons," according to U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

Nongovernmental organizations hailed the 50th ratification of the world's first treaty banning nuclear weapons. "With the treaty now ready to enter into force, everything will change, but our work is not done," the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, known as ICAN, said, pledging to "make sure the treaty lives up to its full potential."

Although the treaty will not be able to legally require nuclear power states to get rid of their arsenals, the launch of the treaty is likely to spur momentum toward reducing stockpiles.

But some experts have questioned the effectiveness of the treaty as it does not involve any of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- all of which are nuclear power states.

The United States has reportedly pressured some of the signatories as part of its opposition to the pact. Other nuclear weapon states -- India, Israel, Pakistan and North Korea -- are not party to the treaty, either.

Japan, the only country to have suffered the devastation of atomic bombings, has decided not to sign the treaty in consideration of its security ties with the United States. Survivors of the atomic bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki along with others are calling for the Japanese government to ratify the pact.

"In countries that have not joined, it is up to us to make sure that companies, governments and people know that nuclear weapons are illegal and that they need to stand on the right side of history," ICAN, the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, said in the statement.

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