UN panel OKs resolution on nuclear alert

November 3, 2007

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The UN General Assembly's disarmament committee approved a resolution Thursday calling for all nuclear weapons to be taken off high alert, despite objections from the United States, Britain and France.

The vote was 124-3 with the three Western nuclear powers voting ""no."" There were 34 abstentions, mainly from NATO and Western countries as well as China. Russia did not vote.
The resolution, co-sponsored by Chile, New Zealand, Nigeria, Sweden and Switzerland, now goes to the 192-nation General Assembly for a final vote. Assembly resolutions are not legally binding but reflect opinions of world governments.
The resolution calls for taking steps ""to decrease the operational readiness of nuclear weapons systems, with a view to ensuring that all nuclear weapons are removed from high alert status.""
John Duncan, Britain's ambassador for multilateral arms control and disarmament, said ""we voted against it because we don't think that de-alerting is the primary issue that we need to address if we are to head to a nuclear-free world.""
""We think the emphasis should be on other things, the numbers of nuclear weapons, not the operational readiness, and also the concerns of proliferation,"" he said.
Richard Grenell, spokesman for the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, said ""the United States has an obligation to manage its military forces to ensure we remain able to protect our security and fulfill our commitments to our allies.""
New Zealand's Disarmament and Arms Control Minister Phil Goff said in late August that his anti-nuclear government was going to introduce the resolution because it wanted to lower the risk posed by the arsenals of nuclear weapons states.
The resolution recalls that maintaining nuclear weapons on high alert was a feature of the Cold War and welcomed ""the increased confidence and transparency"" since it ended in the early 1990s. But it expresses concern that despite the end of the Cold War, ""several thousand nuclear weapons remain on high alert, ready to be launched within minutes.""
The high level of readiness ""increases the risk of the use of such weapons, including the unintentional or accidental use, which would have catastrophic consequences,"" the resolution says.
Reducing the deployment of nuclear weapons and lowering their alert status, it says, ""contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security, as well as to the process of nuclear disarmament.""