nuclear weapons

nuclear weapons

nuclear weapons, weapons of mass destruction powered by atomic, rather than chemical, processes. Nuclear weapons produce large explosions and hazardous radioactive byproducts by means of either nuclear fission or nuclear fusion. Nuclear weapons can be delivered by artillery, plane, ship, or ballistic missile (ICBM); some can also fit inside a suitcase. Tactical nuclear weapons can have the explosive power of a fraction of a kiloton (one kiloton equals 1,000 tons of TNT), while strategic nuclear weapons can produce thousands of kilotons of explosive force. After World War II, the proliferation of nuclear weapons became an increasing cause of concern throughout the world. At the end of the 20th cent. the vast majority of such weapons were held by the United States and the USSR; smaller numbers were held by Great Britain, France, China, India, and Pakistan. Israel also has nuclear weapons but has not confirmed that fact publicly; North Korea has conducted a nuclear test explosion but probably does not have a readily deliverable nuclear weapon; and South Africa formerly had a small arsenal. Over a dozen other countries can, or soon could, make nuclear weapons. In addition to the danger of radioactive fallout, in the 1970s scientists began investigating the potential impact of nuclear war on the environment. The collective effects of the environmental damage that could result from a large number of nuclear explosions has been termed nuclear winter. Treaties have been signed limiting certain aspects of nuclear testing and development. Although the absolute numbers of nuclear warheads and delivery vehicles have declined since the end of the cold war, disarmament remains a distant goal. See atomic bomb; cold war; disarmament, nuclear; guided missile; hydrogen bomb; nuclear energy; nuclear physics.

See L. Martin, The Changing Face of Nuclear Warfare (1987); S. M. Younger, The Bomb (2009).

In 1992, Mongolian President Punsalmaagiin Ochirbat announced that his country would seek to become a one-state Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (NWFZ). The last Russian troops had left the country that same year, and Mongolia perceived a change in its geopolitical status and an opportunity for neutrality.

The initiative to become a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone was well-received by Mongolia's neighbors, the Russian Federation and the People's Republic of China (both nuclear weapons states), as well as by the world community at large, despite being somewhat unorthodox. Previously, NWFZs had been composed of a group of countries, although the possibility of single-state zones had been long recognized. United Nations General Assembly Resolution 3261 F of December 9, 1974, states that "obligations relating to the establishment of nuclear-weapon-free zones may be assumed not only by groups of states, including entire continents or large geographical regions, but also by small groups of States and even individual countries."

Mongolia's drive for international recognition yielded fruit in Resolution 53/77 D , which was adopted by the General Assembly on December 4, 1998, which welcomed Mongolia's goal, and put it on the agenda for the next meeting.

On February 28, 2000, the Mongolian ambassador to the United Nations Jargalsaikhan Enkhsaikhan presented a letter outlining the Mongolian de-nuclearization law, which was then circulated as A/55/56 S/2000/160. At this stage, it appears that the international recognition of Mongolia's nuclear-weapons-free status is complete.

During two meetings held in February and in July 2006, particular attention was paid to Mongolia's economic and ecological vulnerabilities and security, and the implementation of General Assembly resolution 59/73.

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