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September 25, 2017 | by  | in News |
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Marshall Islands deliberate whether to ban nuclear weapons

The world’s first legally-binding treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons opened for signature last week, with a number of Pacific Island nations signing — however, the Marshall Islands may not join them.

Palau, Fiji, Samoa, Tuvalu, Solomon Islands, Kiribati, and Vanuatu were confirmed as signatories on the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, alongside 43 other countries, including New Zealand. However, the Marshall Islands had not confirmed their formal support of the treaty at the time of print.

The treaty opened for signatures on September 20, and will bind signatories not to “develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons,” in addition to banning the threat of use of any nuclear weapons. This disallows any country currently possessing nuclear arms from signing the treaty.

Marshall Islands President, Hilda Heine, told Radio New Zealand that while the Marshall Islands do not want any nation to ever use nuclear arms, her government was “considering” whether or not to sign the treaty. “The big question is, how does the world effectively eliminate this threat. It’s actually pretty complicated. This treaty deserves due time for consideration and consultation.”

Acting director of Pacific Studies at VUW, April Henderson, told Salient that, as the Marshall Islands have always been at the forefront of support for nuclear disarmament, their reluctance to sign the treaty may come as a surprise.

“As the site of 67 nuclear tests conducted by the US between 1946 and 1958, and inheritors of the devastating human and environmental consequences of those tests, the Marshall Islands have wielded considerable moral authority on this issue.”

“I have no doubt that the Marshall Islands support the spirit and intent of the treaty, but their close political and economic relationship with the United States — their former administrator as part of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, and their major leaseholder and funder — could mean that it is impolitic to actually sign it.”

In July, during the treaty’s development stage, 122 countries approved the treaty’s proposed terms. It will enter into force after 90 days.

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