The United Nations began negotiations Monday on an international nuclear weapons ban, which is opposed by countries that already possess nuclear weapons.
Proponents of the ban see nuclear arms as a threat to global security and warn that the weapons can have catastrophic effects if used. More than 120 nations voted last year in favor of launching the treaty talks.
U.N. High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Kim Won-soo said nuclear weapons pose an "existential threat to humanity" and that the need for disarmament has never been so urgent.
"The endless pursuit of nuclear and non-nuclear strategic weapons will not create security, rather it has the potential to provoke new and destabilizing arms races and to exacerbate regional and global tensions," he said.
The United States, Britain, France and about 20 other nations stood together Monday in opposition to the ban. Russia and China are also against the proposed treaty and are not taking part in the talks.
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley said Monday it is the job of officials to keep their people safe.
"As a mom, as a daughter, there is nothing I want more for my family than a world with no nuclear weapons, but we have to be realistic," Haley said. "Is there anyone that believes that North Korea would agree to a ban on nuclear weapons?"
Japan's representative, Nobushige Takamizawa, also cited North Korea, saying the country's recent nuclear and ballistic missile threats are an "imminent security threat" to the region and the world.
One North Korean test in early March sent missiles into the Sea of Japan, 200 kilometers off Japan's northwest coast.
Japan is also the only nation to ever be be hit by a nuclear weapon, with the U.S. dropping two such bombs on Japanese cities during World War Two.
Brad Glosserman, executive director of the Hawaii-based Pacific Forum security think tank, told VOA that countries already armed with nuclear weapons would be wary to unilaterally give them up.
"The North Koreans have said quite clearly that they would like to move towards a world without nuclear weapons, but they will only do it when other nuclear weapons states move with them," Glosserman said. "But that's the same position quite frankly as the Chinese and the Russians and even the Americans."
Speaking alongside Haley on Monday, France's U.N. Ambassador Alexis Lamek said that in the current context "our countries continue to rely on nuclear deterrence for security and stability."
British U.N. Ambassador Matthew Rycroft added that a nuclear weapons ban will not singularly improve international security and transparency among those countries with nuclear weapons, and that it will not address the technical challenges of verifying that governments are complying.
If U.N. members do agree to a nuclear ban treaty, it would only be binding on those countries that ratify it.
But Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, said Monday a ban would still be important.
"The treaty will have an impact, even on countries which fail to participate, by settling international norms of behavior and removing the political prestige associated with nuclear weapons," Fihn said.