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US: Nuclear Ban Treaty Undermines International Security

FILE - The U.S. permanent representative to the Conference on Disarmament, Ambassador Robert Wood, is pictured at an International Atomic Energy Agency board of governors meeting in Vienna, Austria, Nov. 30, 2012.

A senior U.S. arms control official said Friday that Washington would never become a party to the treaty banning nuclear weapons because the accord undermines international security and does nothing to resolve threats posed by North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is set to open for signature at the U.N. General Assembly in New York next week. If 50 countries sign it, the treaty will go into force.

The U.S. permanent representative to the Conference on Disarmament, Ambassador Robert Wood, said at a news conference Friday that he considered the treaty a bad idea. He said prohibiting nuclear weapons would not make the world a safer place or reduce stockpiles by even one weapon.

He warned that the treaty would exacerbate divisions that already exist in the nonproliferation and disarmament communities.

"We are now facing the greatest nuclear challenge that we have faced for quite some time in North Korea's nuclear weapons program and its ballistic missile activities," he said. "And, the ban treaty does nothing and cannot do anything to impact and improve the situation with regard to that challenge that we face."

Diplomacy preferred

Wood reiterated the Trump administration's position that all options were on the table in dealing with the North Korean nuclear threat. However, he added, Washington's preference is to go the diplomatic route and give sanctions the opportunity to work.

Other nations, including Israel, India and Pakistan, have developed nuclear weapons in defiance of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The United States does not approve of the programs.

In response to a question from VOA, the ambassador said the United States would never recognize North Korea as a nuclear weapons state.

"North Korea has basically brought the international community to a very dangerous situation and we cannot sit idly by while the North continues to advance its ballistic missile program, its nuclear weapons program," he said. "They are a great threat to peace and international security."

Wood said the U.S. would continue to pressure and isolate the North's government with the hope it will choose a different path, but he warned that patience was running thin.