PH signs UN treaty banning nuclear weapons

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  • Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano signed on September 20 the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

Story updated to provisions of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 21) — The Philippines is now among 121 countries to sign the first legally binding international agreement to completely eliminate nuclear weapons.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano signed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons on Wednesday at the United Nations (UN) headquarters in New York.

The treaty was adopted by the UN in July 2017.

"We call on Member-States that possess the world's largest nuclear arsenals to sign on to the treaty," Cayetano said on the sidelines of the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly. "The world will only be safe if we eliminate all weapons of mass destruction. As a signatory, the Philippines stands ready to contribute to the work ahead."

The Secretary added the treaty presents a unique opportunity for nuclear weapon states to demonstrate their commitment to the UN Charter and to "achieve and maintain a nuclear-weapon-free world."

The Philippines, as a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, is also a signatory to the Southeast Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone treaty of 1995.

The ASEAN treaty prohibits the Philippines and the nine other countries to create, develop, acquire or control nuclear weapons anywhere inside the economic region.

Total disarmament

The treaty covers states that currently own and formerly owned nuclear weapons, as well as states that have nuclear weapons from other states within their territory.

States that currently have a nuclear arsenal have 60 days from the effectivity of the treaty to submit a plan to destroy their weapons.

Meanwhile, states that used to have a nuclear arsenal have up to 18 months to conclude a safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency "to provide credible assurance of the non-diversion of declared nuclear material from peaceful nuclear activities and of the absence of undeclared nuclear material or activities."

The treaty does not prohibit nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

In addition, the instrument requires states to provide assistance to people affected by nuclear weapons, including nuclear tests, and to rehabilitate areas contaminated by nuclear devices.

The treaty also allows states to provide and receive assistance from other states.

States may withdraw from the treaty one year after submitting a notification of withdrawal.

North Korea threat

The signing came amid repeated threats of a nuclear attack by North Korea, which tested its most powerful weapon in early September.

Read: What is a hydrogen bomb and can North Korea deliver one?

Cayetano expressed "grave concern" over this test, saying that it would undermine regional stability.

Read: DFA: PH ‘gravely concerned’ over North Korea bomb test

In August 2017, the UN imposed new sanctions on North Korea that would slash North Korea's annual export revenue of $3 billion by more than a third, according to the office of U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley.

Read: UN Security Council imposes new sanctions on North Korea

North Korea also threatened to fire a nuclear missile at Guam, a U.S. territory located around 2,500 kilometers east of the Philippines.

Read: Next target Guam, North Korea says

Armed Forces of the Philippines Spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla earlier said although the probability of a direct hit from a North Korean missile is "remote," debris could reach in the northern part of the Philippines.

Read: AFP: Probability of North Korea missile hitting PH is 'remote'

CNN Philippines Digital Producer Chad de Guzman contributed to this report.