Permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and the top five nuclear forces in the world, known as the P5 or N5, which are the U.S., Russia, China, the UK, and France, have agreed to never use a nuclear weapon in any kind of conflict in the future because a nuclear cannot be “won” in a joint pledge.
The five nuclear weapons countries, which are recognized by the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) are also the five permanent members of the UN security council. The NPT was an agreement between states without nuclear weapons, who pledged not to acquire them, and the five nuclear-armed states, which promised to disarm their arsenal.
A nuclear weapon is a device designed to release energy in an explosive manner as a result of nuclear fission, nuclear fusion, or a combination of the two processes.
The UN defines nuclear weapons as the most dangerous weapons on earth, with the power to destroy a whole city, potentially killing millions, and jeopardizing the natural environment and lives of future generations through its long-term catastrophic effects.
“We believe that the further spread of such weapons must be prevented. A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought” the statement underlined, just like the joint declaration by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev at a summit in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1985.
The joint statement shows a fresh commitment towards not turning any kind of conflict into a nuclear threat on both humanity and the planet.
The proposal came from China, even though the country is expected to reach a thousand nuclear warheads by the end of the decade, as the Pentagon’s annual report on China’s military capabilities claimed China's nuclear weapons cache is set to become five times larger, reaching 1,000 nuclear warheads by 2030.
A senior U.S. state department official said the statement had been discussed and prepared at P5 meetings for several months, despite the increasing tensions between Russia, China, and the western countries. Russia has been threatening to invade Ukraine, while China signals that it is ready to use military force against Taiwan.
“At the base level to be able to say that this is how we think about these risks, and this is an acknowledgment that it is something that we want to avoid, particularly during a difficult time, I think is noteworthy,” said the senior U.S. official.
The release of the joint statement had been timed to coincide with the five-yearly review conference of the NPT, but that conference has been postponed due to increasing COVID-19 cases and discussions to hold the session virtually continues.
China vice foreign minister Ma Zhaoxu welcomed the pledge and said “The joint statement issued by the leaders of the five nuclear-weapon states will help increase mutual trust and replace competition among major powers with coordination and cooperation,” according to Xinhua News Agency.
“France has a nuclear doctrine reserving the right to use nuclear weapons as a “final warning” to warn off an aggressor or even a state sponsor of terrorism”, said Oliver Meier, senior researcher at the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy, voicing the concerns of France about the agreement. A line was added in the joint statement saying that “nuclear weapons – for as long as they continue to exist – should serve defensive purposes, deter aggression, and prevent war,” to address the concerns of France.
The five countries also agreed on the “reduction of strategic risks”, and as a foremost responsibility, the countries promised to make sure that global tensions never lead to nuclear conflict. “We underline our desire to work with all states to create a security environment more conducive to progress on disarmament,” the statement said.
“Given the security environment, I’m pretty shocked that the P5 could agree to this much,” Heather Williams, a senior lecturer in defense studies at King’s College London, said.
The vice president of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, and the first president of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, Rebecca Johnson said, “With nine nuclear arsenals currently being enhanced, and COVID problems besetting nuclear-armed submarines and facilities, this statement from five of the nuclear-armed leaders is welcomed, but does not go far enough. As long as nuclear weapons continue to be advertised and wielded by some, we are all put at risk of nuclear war.”
There four other countries with nuclear weapons which have not been recognized under NPT are Israel, India, Pakistan, and North Korea, and they have shown no signs of reducing their nuclear arsenal.