At the UN General Assembly yesterday, a vote was held on a resolution to launch negotiations in 2017 on a ban on nuclear weapons, with a view to achieving a ban as soon as possible. The resolution was supported by 123 countries. Norway voted no to the resolution, together with 37 other countries, of which 27 were NATO members.
The Government’s efforts on disarmament and non-proliferation are guided by the decision made by the Storting this spring, when it was agreed that Norway would take a long-term perspective in its work towards the establishment of a legally binding framework, based on the balanced, mutual, irreversible and verifiable elimination of nuclear weapons. The aim is to secure a disarmament process that also involves the nuclear-weapon states. In the resolution that was presented to the UN, however, the intention is to introduce a ban before disarmament has taken place.
‘If we seek to introduce a ban first, the nuclear-weapon states will not engage in the process. A ban on nuclear weapons that precedes disarmament would simply be empty posturing, and would not bring us any closer to the goal of a world without nuclear weapons. We would also run the risk of undermining the work being done in other forums to promote nuclear disarmament.
‘Furthermore, it is essential for Norway to choose an approach that is in line with our obligations as a NATO member. A fundamental premise of NATO’s deterrence policy is that as long as nuclear weapons exist, it will remain a nuclear alliance. It is not appropriate for NATO countries to embark on a process of unilateral disarmament on the basis of a ban, as long as nuclear powers such as Russia, Pakistan and North Korea keep their weapons,’ said Mr Brende.
There are many challenges in the area of disarmament. The most important tasks are to reduce the number of nuclear weapons and prevent their spread to additional countries. Norway has played an active role in this area and launched several initiatives, for example to assist the implementation of the nuclear agreement with Iran and minimise the use of highly enriched uranium in the civilian sector. Norway has also sought to enhance efforts to promote disarmament by presenting a separate resolution to the UN on nuclear disarmament verification. Moreover, Norway has supported other key resolutions in the UN on the promotion of disarmament and non-proliferation, for example Japan’s resolution on a path to the total elimination of nuclear weapons, Canada’s resolution on banning the production of fissile material, and a resolution co-sponsored by Sweden on decreasing the operational readiness of nuclear weapons.
‘In order for multilateral disarmament to be possible, it is essential that all parties are confident that disarmament commitments will be honoured. The verification of nuclear disarmament – ensuring that it is actually taking place – is therefore crucial to securing international disarmament agreements. Norway’s nuclear verification initiative has gained widespread support, including from nuclear-weapon states,’ said Mr Brende.
‘Nuclear-weapon states are not doing enough to work towards the goal of a world without nuclear weapons, and we must continue to exert pressure on them to make additional cuts in their nuclear arsenals. It is vital that all nuclear-weapon states participate in binding cooperation to this end. Unfortunately, given the political climate in the world today, there is currently little interest in a disarmament process of this kind. The reality is that few countries are willing to relinquish their nuclear weapons without a credible guarantee that other countries will do the same,’ said Mr Brende.