Nikki Haley leads allies in boycott of UN nuclear talks

The United States and close to 40 other countries, most of them members of NATO or nuclear states, announced Monday they would boycott the negotiations on banning nuclear weapons that will take place at UN headquarters this week.

US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley took the initiative to lead a delegation of ambassadors outside the general assembly to tell the waiting press why none of them would be participating in the talks.

“As a mom, as a daughter, there is nothing I want more for my family than a world with no nuclear weapons,” Haley said. “But we have to be realistic. Is there anyone that believes that North Korea would agree to a ban on nuclear weapons?”

Haley announced her arrival at the UN two months ago with a promise to shake things up, but the refusal to go along with a ban on nuclear weapons is not a break with Obama administration policy.

Back in October, when Barack Obama was still in office, the United States voted against the resolution to convene the nuclear ban negotiations. 37 other countries also voted no, including most of the NATO alliance as well as Russia.

This week’s negotiations is known as the first round. The second and much longer round will take place from June 15th to July 7th. But even if a proposal on a nuclear ban is adopted at the end of the talks, the refusal of several nuclear states to abide by the ban will essentially render it meaningless.

On Monday, Haley was flanked by ambassadors from her two closest partners in the security council, France and the United Kingdom, who spoke after her.

“The UK is not attending the negotiations on a treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons because we do not believe it will lead to effective progress on global nuclear disarmament,” said UK’s ambassador Matthew Rycroft.

US, France and UK all have nuclear weapons but stressed the work they’ve done on nuclear disarmament in recent decades. Haley cited an 85% reduction in the US’ stockpile since the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty came into effect, Rycroft said the UK has reduced its stockpile by 50% since the “height of the cold war” and France’s deputy ambassador Alexis Lamek mentioned that France has stopped nuclear testing and dismantled its testing sites.

During the presidential campaign, President Donald Trump both said he opposed and supported US allies such as Japan acquiring their own nuclear weapons, sometimes in the same interview.

Haley did not expand on the president’s view, but ended the press conference by thanking those who joined her in boycotting the talks.

“I want to thank all of the countries that will not be attending today,” she said. “Those almost 40 countries are showing a commitment to their people, their commitment to their countries and freedom and peace in the future.”

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