While Friday’s meeting between the leaders of the two biggest nuclear powers drew world attention, representatives from 122 other countries did something truly historic that barely registered a blip: They negotiated the first-ever treaty outlawing atomic bombs.
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, passed at the United Nations by a vote of 122 to 1, was the culmination of a decadelong effort by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons — and a resounding rebuke to the world’s nuclear weapons states, which were glaringly absent and immediately dismissed the effort.
The vote, which opens the treaty for signature beginning Sept. 20, drew a lengthy standing ovation at U.N. headquarters in New York — even if the agreement is not expected to have any measurable effect on the atomic arsenals in the hands of the few.
“These states are sending a message. They are expressing their profound frustration that the U.S., Russia, China and other nuclear-armed states have not fulfilled previous political and legal commitments,” said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, a Washington-based advocacy group, who attended the session.
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