More than 100 nations have launched talks at the United Nations to discuss a global ban on nuclear weapons, but the world’s major powers boycotted the meeting.
The 123 UN member nations present at the talks are attempting to negotiate what they see as a legally binding nuclear ban treaty.
Kim Won-soo, the UN high representative for disarmament affairs, said as the talks opened that "the need for progress on nuclear disarmament has rarely been as urgent as it is today."
The United States, Russia, China, and other nuclear-armed nations were not taking part.
The U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley said before the talks began that the ban would end up disarming nations "trying to keep peace and safety," while "bad actors" would not sign on or comply.
"North Korea would be the one cheering, and all of us and the people we represent would be the ones at risk," she said.
North Korea carried out two nuclear tests last year and has continued to test ballistic missiles, in violation of UN resolutions.
Austria, Ireland, Mexico, Brazil, South Africa, and Sweden are leading the effort to establish a nuclear weapons ban.
Supporters of a global ban said the threat of a nuclear catastrophe is increasing due to tensions over North Korea's nuclear weapons program and an unpredictable new administration in Washington.
They point to similar movements that led to bans on landmines in 1997 and cluster bombs in 2008.
Opponents of the ban plan say gradual disarmament has made a difference.
Hailey said the United States has cut its nuclear arsenal by 85 percent under the Non-Proliferation Treaty that came into force in 1970.