The United Nations First Committee (Disarmament and International Security), by a vote of 100 in favour, 25 against and 23 abstentions, today adopted resolution A/C.1/53/L.45, entitled “Follow-up to the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons.”

The resolution welcomes the conclusion of the ICJ “that there exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations on nuclear disarmament in all its aspects” and calls for “all states to immediately fulfill that obligation by commencing multilateral negotiations in 1999 leading to an early conclusion of a nuclear weapons convention…”

A separate vote on operative paragraph paragraph one, which welcomes the ICJ’s conclusion, was supported by 133 states, with 5 opposing and 5 abstaining.

Among the nuclear weapons states, China, India and Pakistan supported the resolution, while the others opposed. The UK did however abstain on operative paragraph 1.

Explanations of vote were given by Luxembourg (on behalf of themselves, Netherlands and Belgium), Chile, the UK, USA, Japan, Aotearoa-New Zealand, South Korea and Germany.

Germany’s statement explaining its opposition, emphasised that it could only move forward on nuclear disarmament initiatives in cooperation with its NATO partners. There was thus no indication that the new government, a Green Social Democrat coalition, would implement its agreed policy on disarmament which supports unilateral disarmament initiatives including a reduction of alert status and renunciation of the first-use policy. Unlike Germany, the NATO states of Norway, Denmark and Iceland abstained.

Statements of Japan, USA, UK, and Luxembourg were similar to those they made when the resolution was before the United Nations last year.

Aotearoa-New Zealand noted that while they supported the call for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons, and that a nuclear weapons convention could be the instrument to complete the task, they also believed that the final goal may be a different agreement or framework of agreements. Thus resolution L.48 (Towards a nuclear-weapon- free world: the need for a new agenda) more accurately reflected their position.

Chile expressed shock that countries could vote against operative paragraph 1 which was an expression of international law. They reminded the assembly of the elements of international law which led to the unanimous conclusion regarding the disarmament obligation. They noted the other unanimous conclusions of the ICJ regarding the application of international humanitarian law to any threat or use of nuclear weapons, and the lack of any specific authorization for any threat or use of nuclear weapons in international law. Finally, Chile noted that any possession of nuclear weapons in a region of conflict would constitute a threat of their use and thus be in violation of international law.

The resolution will be forwarded to the plenary of the General Assembly for a final vote in early December.