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Japan will join UN group on nuclear disarmament

January 28, 2016


Japan reconsiders, decides to join U.N. nuclear disarmament group



By HAJIMU TAKEDA/ Staff Writer

Tokyo, in a sharp reversal of policy, will now join a U.N. nuclear disarmament group even though it still does not want a treaty banning weapons of mass destruction.

Japan, the only nation to suffer the horrors of a nuclear attack, now ironically sits beneath the nuclear umbrella of its ally the United States so it originally abstained from the vote to set up the disarmament working group along with 33 other nations, including NATO members.

Tokyo's decision to now participate shows that it wants its own opinions on nuclear disarmament reflected in the group’s discussions, such as its hope that the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty will be ratified by the nations that have so far refused to do so.

The establishment of the Open-Ended Working Group on Nuclear Disarmament was approved last autumn as a subsidiary body of the U.N. General Assembly.

The first session of the working group will be held in Geneva in February, with two more sessions scheduled for May and August.

In addition to the 34 abstentions, 12 countries voted against the proposal for setting up the working group, including the nuclear powers of the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia.

The new working group plans to present a recommendation on nuclear disarmament at a meeting of the U.N. General Assembly in October.

Japanese delegates are expected to attend a preliminary meeting in Geneva on Jan. 28, which will pick the chair and decide how the group’s sessions should be managed.

In the meeting, they will argue that any recommendation made by the working group should be based on a unanimous endorsement, and not a vote.

“As far as numbers are concerned, the group of nonnuclear powers demanding legal measures is overwhelming,” said a senior official with the Japanese Foreign Ministry. “If a vote is adopted to decide on the planned recommendation, Japan’s argument will likely be ignored.”

The working group was founded following a strong push from Mexico, Austria, South Africa and other countries without nuclear weapons, which called for “legal measures” to achieve nuclear disarmament. The proposal was approved by 138 nations, about two-thirds of the U.N. member nations.

Mexico and other nonnuclear nations are expected to work together to foster momentum toward a nuclear ban treaty.

Japan is not in favor of a nuclear ban treaty. The nation’s defense policy remains unchanged in that it needs to benefit from the U.S. nuclear deterrent in the immediate future.

But it apparently decided on joining the working group on the condition that a variety of views should be reflected in the group’s debate, including a view that legal measures refer not only to a treaty banning nuclear weapons, but also one banning the testing of nuclear weapons.

In that context, Japan concluded that Washington would not oppose its bid to join the working group.

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, who is from Hiroshima, has pledged that Japan will lead global efforts toward a nuclear-free world.

In April, the nation will host a Group of Seven Foreign Ministers meeting in Hiroshima, the first time such talks have been held in the city leveled by a U.S. atomic bomb in 1945.



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