Nuclear weapons ban treaty comes into force against major headwinds

New York/Vienna, Jan. 22, (dpa/GNS) - An international pact that bans all nuclear weapons came into force on Friday, but nuclear powers and many countries that are protected by them are staying away from the treaty.

In 2017, nearly two-thirds of the world's countries voted for the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) that forbids the development, production, testing, possession and use of atomic arms.

Countries must also not allow others to station foreign weapons on their territory. Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey host US warheads.

"Nuclear weapons pose growing dangers," UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said in a statement on Friday. "They must urgently be eliminated to "prevent the catastrophic human and environmental consequences any use would cause," he added.

Guterres echoed arguments by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), which won the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize for shoring up support for the TPNW and for drawing attention to the atrocity of nuclear warfare.

However, the pact will not result in disarmament as long as the countries with nuclear arsenals and the transatlantic NATO alliance oppose it.

Of the pact's 122 initial supporters, only 51 mostly developing countries have turned it into national law.

The government of NATO member Germany cautioned shortly before the treaty went into force that the TPNW "has the potential to make the disarmament dialogue more difficult."

Japan, which is both a victim of US nuclear bombs and a close US ally, has also not signed the treaty.