March 27 (UPI) -- The United States joined about three dozen other nations in boycotting a conference at the United Nations on a treaty to ban nuclear weapons.
Other nations sitting out the five-day talks included Russia, China, Great Britain, France, South Korea and Albania. More than 120 nations, including Austria, Brazil, Ireland, Japan, Mexico, South Africa and Sweden, are participating, supporting the negotiations.
"You are gonna see almost 40 countries that are not in the General Assembly today, and that's 40 countries that are saying in this day and time, we would love to have a ban on nuclear weapons," Ambassador Nikki Haley of the United State told reporters outside the General Assembly in New York as the talks started. "But in this day and time, we can't honestly say that we can protect our people by allowing the bad actors to have them and those of us that are good trying to keep peace and safety not to have them."
She says the United States has already reduced its nuclear weapons by 85 percent under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty approved in 1968.
"There is nothing I want more for my family than a world with no nuclear weapons," Haley said. "But we have to be realistic. Is there anyone who thinks that North Korea would ban nuclear weapons?"
Haley questioned whether nations really understand global threats: "You have to ask yourself, are they looking out for their people?"
Ambassador Matthew Rycroft of Great Britain said his country stayed away form the talks "because we do not believe that those negotiations will lead to effective progress on global nuclear disarmament."
The U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution in December to convene a conference "to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination."
The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons supports the talks.
"This new international agreement will place nuclear weapons on the same legal footing as other weapons of mass destruction, which have long been outlawed," the organization said on its website. Those other weapons, including chemical weapons, land mines and cluster munitions, have been banned.
Peter Maurer, the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, said in a statement at the conference: "The historic significance of this conference cannot be overstated. More than seven decades after calls for the elimination of nuclear weapons were first made, states are finally meeting at the global level to prohibit nuclear weapons."
The new treaty will "reinforce the stigma against their use, support commitments to nuclear risk reduction and be a disincentive for proliferation," he said.
Pope Francis sent a message of support to the negotiating conference. "I wish to encourage you to work with determination in order to create the conditions necessary for a world without nuclear weapons," he said.